How to Stay Safe While Driving Near Big Rigs in the Winter

A big truck driving in winter weather conditions

Winter weather brings cold, snow, and ice. These conditions mean that driving safely around large trucks in the winter becomes even more difficult.  Read below to learn how to stay safe while driving near semi-trucks in the winter.

More Truck Traffic = More Danger

More large trucks occupy the roads than ever before. According to the American Trucking Association, there are almost 38 million trucks registered as being used for business purposes. That's an increase of 1.5% from the previous year. And, almost 4 million of them are Class 8 trucks, which include tractor-trailer big rigs.  

More trucks mean more danger other motorcycles, cars, trucks, and SUVs around them. According to The National Safety Council's Injury Facts website, there were more than 5,000 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2019. This represents an increase of 2% over the prior year and a 43% increase since 2010. Not surprisingly, the occupants of the passenger vehicle were the fatality 98% of the time. This is most likely a symptom of the weight and size differences between semi-trucks and regular passenger vehicles.

Further, winter travel only increases the danger. It is estimated that more than 70,000 people are injured in traffic accidents due to snow or sleet. These accidents sometimes result in the occupants seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer to recover damages.

How do you stay safe while driving near big rigs this winter? Here are a few tips to drive around big rigs, especially during inclement weather.

1. Avoid The Truck Driver’s Blind Spots

All vehicles have blind spots behind and right and left of the driver.  Rear-view and side-view mirrors can only cover so much of the surrounding area. While a normal car has a blind spot that can be remedied by a driver turning his/her head, the same cannot be said for large rigs. Large truck drivers cannot see about 10 yards directly behind the truck regardless of where they look. Also, there are large blind spots on both sides of the rig. Simply put, if you cannot see a truck’s mirrors, the driver cannot see you.

Make sure you practice safe distancing behind a big rig and avoid blind spots whenever possible, especially in the winter. Snow and ice precipitation lessen visibility. Make sure you see the trucker’s side mirrors so that he/she knows where you are. If you need to pass, it might be wise to stay in sight for a time before attempting a pass. 

2. Increase Your Following Distance

Generally, motor vehicles following the “two second rule,” have enough time to safely respond to any dangerous situation that can occur in front of them. If there is moisture on the driving surface, especially snow and ice, this time should be increased dramatically.  

Studies show that tires have less grip on a wet road. So, if there is just rain, the “two second rule” becomes a “four second rule.” If there is frozen precipitation, perhaps ten seconds would not be out of order. Whether this is practical depends on where you are driving and when. Nevertheless, you should be aware that wet roads can double or quadruple your following distance.  Make sure you make this adjustment to stay safe while driving near large rigs during the winter months.

3. Be Patient Around Big Rigs in the Winter

When attempting to change lanes or make turns near large rigs, activate your blinkers earlier than normal. This gives the truck driver more time to notice you and to respond you your actions. The driver might then choose to speed up or slow down to give you more room or can simply open up from the flow of traffic as a result of the slow down.

When attempting to merge, and especially in the winter, avoid situations where you enter into traffic rapidly when there is a likelihood of slow traffic in front of you.  Since trucks are heavy, they take longer to slow down/stop. As stated before, snow and sleet can increase stopping time by 500%. A better choice would be to enter traffic BEHIND the big rig if possible.

Remember, patience rewards everyone as it gives both drivers as well as other motorists more time to react and/or slow down/stop if a crash is imminent. In the winter, even more so.

4. Give Them Even More Space

Increasing the space you give large trucks helps avoid crashes when a big rig attempts a maneuver, especially during cold weather.

In non-highway driving, for example, large trucks must often swing outside of their lane to make right turns. Without this adjustment, the trailer might run up off the roadway onto the curb.  This move opens up the right lane for those vehicles traveling behind. When completing the turn, the space rapidly closes often sending the other vehicle up the curb. Also, winter conditions can prevent the trucker from seeing another vehicle entering the space.

If a tractor-trailer is making any turn, it is prudent to stay back. Getting sideswiped by a trailer is dangerous and is no way to spend your day. 

Staying Safe While Driving Near Big Rigs in the Winter

It isn’t always possible to avoid accidents with semi-trucks in the winter. Techniques such as avoiding blind spots, increasing following distance, and generally giving truckers more space will go a long way to lessen the risk.

If you should find yourself or a loved one involved in a big rig accident and are injured, you could contact a serious injury attorney to explore your options. Consider securing the best legal representation with an established personal injury law firm that specializes in truck accident lawsuits. An established personal injury law firm deals with these issues daily and can help you navigate through the insurance claims process and ultimately a lawsuit if necessary.

To reach an experienced trucking accident attorney, visit Cooney & Conway or call (800) 322-5573 and request a free and confidential case evalution. There is no risk in calling, and there is no charge for services unless there is a recovery on your behalf.