Driving Near Big Rigs: The Facts & Tips to Stay Safe

Many drivers can recount stories of "close calls" with large semi-trucks on our nation's roads. Most drivers realize that big rigs can be dangerous and exercise caution when driving near one. However, it's important to understand why so many fatal crashes in the U.S. involve semi-trucks and how to avoid these crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one of every nine traffic fatalities in 2008 was caused by a collision with a large commercial truck in 2008.

Who is at Risk?

18-wheeler trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, almost 13 times more than the largest SUV's. Due to their size, limited visibility and poor maneuverability, big rigs are more likely to be involved in a pileup than other vehicles. Of all fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2008, 82percent were multi-vehicle crashes.

NHTSA research shows that in multi-vehicle crashes involving large trucks, passengers in other, smaller vehicles are more likely to be injured or killed. Of deaths caused by accidents involving semi-trucks, 74percent were occupants of another vehicle and 16percent were occupants of the semi.

According to NHTSA research, most serious accidents involving large trucks occurred when both vehicles were heading straight forward, or when one vehicle was turning or maneuvering a curvy road. Most serious crashes with big rigs occurred in rural areas (64percent), during the day (67percent) and on weekdays (80percent).

Safety Tips

There are ways to lower your chances of colliding with a large truck, with the most important tip being slow down. Commercial trucks are the giants of the roads and require more time to brake and reduce speed than other vehicles. When driving directly behind a truck, leave extra space between the vehicles. In multi-vehicle crashes in 2008, large trucks were 3.2 times more likely to be rear-ended than passenger vehicles.

Beware of blind spots. Make sure that when passing a semi-truck, you don't change lanes until you can see the entire cab in your rear-view mirror to allow enough time for the truck to brake.

Trucks need more room to turn than smaller vehicles. Don't try to pass a truck while it is turning to avoid getting side-swiped. Taking the time to slow down around large trucks and make cautious decisions on the road could save you from a dangerous, deadly accident.