Sharing the Road
When driving on the highway, you are at a serious disadvantage if involved in a crash with a larger vehicle. In crashes involving large trucks, the occupants of a car — usually the driver — sustain 78 percent of fatalities.
In order to keep you and your teen safe on the road, you should be extra cautious when driving around large trucks and buses. Sharing the road with larger vehicles can be dangerous, if you are not aware of their limitations. Here are a few tips to help you drive safer to prevent a crash and minimize injuries and fatalities if one does occur.
Cutting in front can cut your life short
If you cut in front of another vehicle, you may create an emergency-braking situation for the vehicles around you, especially in heavy traffic. Trucks and buses take much longer to stop in comparison to cars. When passing, look for the front of the truck in your rearview mirror before pulling in front, and avoid braking situations.
Watch your blind spots – the “no-zones”
Large trucks have blind spots, or “no-zones,” around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. These no-zones make it difficult for the driver to see. Avoid being caught in a truck’s no-zones. If you can’t see the truck driver in the truck’s mirror, the truck driver can’t see you.
Avoid squeeze play
Be careful of trucks making wide right turns. If you try to get in between the truck and the curb, you’ll be caught in a “squeeze” crash. Truck drivers sometimes need to swing widely to the left in order to safely negotiate a right turn. They can’t see cars directly behind or beside them. Cutting in between the truck and the curb increases the possibility of a crash. So pay attention to truck signals, and give them lots of room to maneuver.
Work zones can be very dangerous, especially when traveling on the highway. It’s important to be alert and prepared to slow down or stop. Slowing down and allowing others to merge will ensure safe passages through work zones. Here are a few tips on work zone safety:
- Stay alert: Work zones are busy places where construction vehicles and workers are always moving. Be alert, and stay on the safe path that is designated throughout the work zone.
- Take your cues from trucks: Work zones often pop up suddenly. If you are not paying attention to the signs, you could find yourself in a serious crash. Since trucks have a height advantage and can see ahead of traffic, their brake light activity can provide a good signal of a slow-down or work zone ahead. Truck drivers know the stopping limitations of their trucks and pay close attention to traffic.
- Merge gently: Aggressive drivers can be extremely dangerous while driving in work zones. Work zones require time and courtesy. For a smooth passage, allow others to merge in front of you. Be especially considerate of trucks; they require more space to merge and are the least maneuverable vehicles on the road.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
- Scan the street for wheels and feet: Be especially careful to look for people walking and biking before turning at intersections and driveways.
- Yield to pedestrians: Pay attention to the pedestrian signal and give people walking the right-of-way.
- Double threat: Never pass another vehicle that has stopped or is slowing down for a pedestrian. Remember, you might not be able to see the pedestrian when you approach a stopped vehicle, so be aware.
- Watch for bicycles: People riding bicycles have the right to be on the road (and are often prohibited from riding on sidewalks), so respect their right to be there.
- Passing safely: Stay at least four feet away from bicyclists (and other vulnerable road users, such as garbage collectors, police officers, and tow truck operators) when passing, and don’t return to the right until well clear of the person. If there isn’t enough room to safely pass in the same lane, you must use another lane or wait for a safe opportunity to pass. Do not pass a person on a bike and then immediately turn right.
- Avoid the “right hook”: Look for and yield to people biking on the right when turning right.
- Avoid the “left cross”: Look for and yield to people walking across the street and yield to oncoming people on bikes when turning left.
- Visibility: Look for bicyclists at night and watch for their reflectors or lights.
- Check blind spots: Watch for bicyclists coming from behind, especially before turning right.
- Doors are dangerous: As a driver or passenger opening your car door, you should look in the mirror and physically turn your body to make sure no bicyclists are coming. Practice the Dutch Reach, outlined below.
Car doors that are opened suddenly pose a very serious threat to bicyclists. When opening the door to step out, drivers and passengers are advised to do the following:
- Check your rear-view mirror.
- Check your side-view mirror.
- Open the door latch with your far hand (the hand farther from the door).
This is called the “Dutch Reach” — or Opposite Hand Trick — and it comes from the Netherlands. It forces your body to turn outward, so that you can easily look out and back for oncoming traffic before exiting. It also prevents pushing or flinging the door open too fast. This not only protects bicyclists, but also keeps you and your door out of harm’s way!
Illustration courtesy of the City of Cambridge “Street Code: Rules and Etiquette for Getting There Together”