As the holidays approach, AAA has reported that over 95 million Americans will hit the road, traveling long distances to visit friends and family. Office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, parades, and holiday sales are all fun events that result in Americans taking to their vehicles with greater frequency than usual. However, besides all the fun local events that account for increased car time, long-distance trips account for the bulk of increased travel time. This holiday season, traffic on America’s highways could be at an all-time high as the result of lower fuel prices, slow but continuing improvement in our economy, increased sales projections for retailers, and increase in trucking commerce. The increase of vehicles on our highways, especially long-haul tractor trailers, pose a real threat to Americans traveling for the holidays.
This past October, HDT trucking reported that tractor trailer orders were up 40% over the same time period last year. Companies of every size are gearing up for moving large holiday loads. Data from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) shows that for-hire carriers have about three times the number of fatalities as do private trucking companies.
Historically, there is an increase in fatalities and catastrophic injuries, especially around the holidays, when there are an increased number of trucks on the road. What is even more dangerous than the surge of trucks on the road, is the number of trucking companies who hire smaller trucking contractors to account for the increase in delivery demands. These smaller trucking contractors are the highest generators of truck crash fatalities and catastrophic injuries.
As you hit the road this holiday, please be mindful of these dangers. Here are tips to help you avoid collisions with tractor-trailers:
- Beware of blind spots. Tractor-trailers have large blind spots, called “no-zones,” located at the rear of the truck, the side, and the connecting point between the truck and the trailer. A good rule of thumb is: if you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirrors, the driver can’t see you. If you plan to pass, make sure the truck driver can see you and knows your intention.
- Don’t change lanes abruptly. Any sudden motion in a truck driver’s periphery can cause the vehicle to respond unpredictably.
- void getting squeezed. At an intersection, be aware that tractor-trailer drivers can sometimes make wide turns. Allow the truck a wide berth to avoid getting caught in the driver’s blind spot.
- Keep a safe distance. Maintain a following distance of 20 to 25 car lengths when you’re behind any tractor-trailer.
- rive within the speed limit. Driving at a safe speed is the key to driving defensively.
- Always use turn signals when passing. Give the tractor-trailer every available visual indicator of your intentions.
- Adjust driving speed to climate conditions. Rain, snow, and high winds can make driving behind a tractor-trailer more hazardous. Allow more distance to maximize breaking capabilities.
- Give the truck a wider berth uphill. If you are behind a tractor-trailer on an incline, allow more space in case the driver is struggling to shift gears and the truck drifts backwards.
- In an emergency, pull completely off the road. If your vehicle becomes impaired, pull off the road as far as possible. Place hazard lights or flares at both ends to warn approaching traffic, then move as far away from your vehicle as you can.
- Avoid road rage. If you feel that a tractor-trailer driver is acting too aggressively, don’t react in kind. Road rage helps no one and only increases the probability of an accident.
All of us at Searcy Denney wish you a happy and safe holiday season.