Sharing the road with semi-trucks: Four safety tips for New York drivers

New Yorkers cannot prevent all crashes involving their smaller vehicles and commercial trucks, but there are things they can do to improve their safety.

Each day, drivers across the state of New York share the roads with tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles. Unfortunately, collisions commonly occur involving these large trucks and passenger vehicles, often resulting in serious injuries or death for the occupants of the smaller vehicles. In fact, those driving the cars are the people who are killed in 60 percent of all fatal car-truck wrecks, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Although not all such accidents can be prevented, there are steps people can take when sharing the road with commercial vehicles to help improve their safety.

Stay out of the blind spots

Much like other automobiles, commercial vehicles have blind spots. However, these areas, which are often referred to as no-zones, are much large on semitrailers and other large trucks. In addition to running along both sides, large trucks' blind spots may extend up to 20 feet in front of them and 30 feet to their rears, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Since truck operators may not see drivers when their vehicles are in the no-zones, people are advised to not drive in them any longer than necessary.

Leave a safe buffer

The delay between when air brakes transmit braking power from cabs to their trailers results in large trucks needing much more room to stop safely than smaller vehicles. While an average passenger vehicle may take up to 193 feet to stop, a tractor-trailer with hot brakes may need up to 430 feet, the New York State DMV reports. Drivers are advised to keep this difference in mind when sharing the road with these vehicles. They should allow plenty of space between their vehicles and large trucks, avoid suddenly stopping or slowing in front of semitrailers, and indicate their intention to change lanes or turn early.

Give large trucks room to maneuver

Their size and wheel bases, among other factors, makes maneuvering tractor-trailers a much different task than operating smaller cars and trucks. Commercial vehicles may have to swing wide to one side or the other, potentially crossing the center line of traffic, in order to turn. Further, the rear of these vehicles may also intrude across lanes while they are turning. Thus, it is suggested motorists be aware of this and avoid crowding large trucks or attempting to squeeze past them while they are turning. They should also always look for semitrailers' signals, not just their lane positioning.

Watch out for splash and spray

In wet conditions, splash and spray may be thrown out from semitrailers, potentially affecting the visibility of drivers travelling alongside or behind them. Although there is no equipment motorists may use that will effectively address this problem, turning their windshield wipers on as they are approaching oncoming commercial vehicles may help ensure the spray is wiped off as soon as possible. This may reduce the time drivers' visibility may be blocked, and thus, the risk of them colliding with tractor-trailers or other vehicles. It is may also be helpful for people to ensure their vehicles' windshield wipers are in good working condition.

Consulting with a lawyer

When people in New York are injured in collisions involving large commercial vehicles, they often require significant medical treatment, time off work to recover and, in some cases, ongoing care. This may result in a range of damages, including undue medical expenses and lost wages. Sometimes, however, the trucking company or truck operator may be held liable. Thus, it may benefit those who have suffered injuries in trucking crashes to discuss their situations and rights with a legal representative.