Tips to help Illinois drivers safely share the road with large trucks

To reduce their risk of truck crashes, drivers should pass and follow carefully, avoid blind spots and understand how trucks differ from other vehicles.

Crashes involving large trucks rank among the most serious motor vehicle accidents that people in Chicago can experience. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, trucks are over-represented in fatal motor vehicle accidents, and the overwhelming majority of the victims of these incidents are passenger vehicle drivers. Severe injuries are also a common outcome of truck crashes, since these vehicles may outweigh others by 20 or 30 times.

Here in Illinois, truck crashes affect thousands of people each year. In 2014, over 11,550 of these crashes occurred statewide, resulting in more than 2,600 injuries and 95 fatalities, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Given these figures, it is important for local drivers to know how to reduce their risk of experiencing truck accidents.

Understand the risks

Large trucks differ from passenger cars in several ways that can make accidents involving these vehicles more likely and more severe. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, a fully loaded truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, these vehicles require much more space to slow and stop than smaller cars. Large trucks also have larger blind spots, less maneuverability and a greater likelihood of rollovers.

Follow and pass safely

Due to these vehicular differences, it is crucial for passenger car drivers to use caution when passing and following large trucks. Per the Texas Department of Transportation, drivers should avoid tailgating, which can reduce visibility and result in deadly under-ride crashes. Drivers also should refrain from cutting in close in front of a truck. Drivers should not move into a truck's lane until they are at least four car lengths ahead of it or until they can see the entire vehicle in the rearview mirror.

Avoid blind spots

To further reduce the risk of large truck crashes, motorists should take care to avoid blind spots when driving near these vehicles. According to the FHSMV, drivers should keep the following facts about truck blind spots in mind:

  • Unlike other vehicles, trucks have front blind spots. These blind spots provide another reason for drivers to avoid cutting in close in front of large trucks.
  • A truck's passenger side blind spot extends across multiple lanes for the entire length of the trailer. Consequently, motorists should never pass a truck on the right-hand side.
  • Motorists should always pass trucks as quickly as possible on the driver's side to minimize their time in a blind spot.

Drivers also should remember that they are most likely in a blind spot if a trucker's side mirrors are out of sight or if the trucker's face is not visible in one of these mirrors.

Handling a truck accident

Sadly, these precautions may not protect drivers from every truck accident. Crashes resulting from negligent behaviors on the part of a truck driver may be especially difficult to avoid. However, the victims of these needless crashes may have legal recourse. As a result, speaking to an attorney about potential remedies is an advisable first step for anyone who has suffered harm in a truck crash.