Highway Driving Tips: Passing & Driving Near Trucks

passing trucks on the highway

Who doesn’t get a little edgy driving near a semi on the highway? More than 250,000 accidents between passenger cars and 18-wheelers happen each year – with auto drivers contributing to over 70% of the crashes.

Many of these collisions could be avoided – and fears reduced – if car drivers knew how to share the road with trucks safely.

Rules of the Road

Driving near and passing an 18-wheeler is different than sharing the road with a standard-sized vehicle. Since the truck is bigger:

  • Their blind spot is bigger
  • They need more space to maneuver
  • They require more time and distance to stop
  • It takes more time to pass them

Passing a truck

When passing a truck, maintain a safe and steady speed, keeping the cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front of it. Pass on the left to maximize visibility and ensure there’s enough space between your car and the truck when you merge back over.

Getting Passed by a Truck

If a truck attempts to pass you, reduce your speed slightly to make it easier for the truck to get around your vehicle.

When a truck is backing up

Never pass behind a truck preparing to back up or is backing up. Otherwise, you may enter a blind spot for you and the trucker.
When a truck is making a wide turn

When turning right, some trucks must first swing left to negotiate the turn. As a result, they can’t see cars directly behind or beside them, so cutting to the right of the turning truck can cause an accident.
When you’re driving near a truck

When driving near a truck, don’t use your bright headlights. The truck’s large side mirrors reflect brights into the driver’s eyes causing temporary blindness.

Top unsafe driving habits

The U.S. Department of Transportation ranked the most unsafe driving acts for car drivers to engage in when trucks are nearby:

  1. Distracted driving (texting, fatigue, etc.)
  2. Improper merging into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly
  3. Failure to stop at a light or stop sign
  4. Failure to slow down in a construction zone
  5. Driving at unsafe speeds (misjudging truck’s speed or approaching too fast from the rear)
  6. Following a truck too closely
  7. Failure to slow down in inclement weather
  8. Changing lanes too abruptly in front of a truck
  9. Driving in a truck’s “no zones” – left rear quarter, right front quarter and directly behind
  10. Unsafe turning, primarily turning with insufficient headway

When you share the road with a big rig, knowing dangers and how to address them can ease your fears and reduce your odds of an accident.