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It is estimated there are more than 15 million trucks on the roads in the United States, making up about 6% of the total vehicles in the U.S. Still, according to Injury Facts 2017, they were involved in more than 4,000 fatalities in 2015 alone. New teen drivers will interact with these 40-ton vehicles as they learn to drive – which can be extremely intimidating – but makes it important for parents to know how to teach their teens the right way to handle semi-truck situations.
While the size difference can be overwhelming to teens and to parents in the passenger’s seat during supervised driving, nearly all truck drivers have specialized training to operate their vehicles safely. The training can be done during a truck driver’s hiring process or as steps in obtaining their commercial driver’s license. Those facts should rest the minds of all those having their first interactions with trucks while learning to drive.
The total blind area around an 18-wheeler is approximately 18,000 square feet, which means mirror adjustments and mirror scans are vital tools of the truck driver to ensure the safety of themselves and other road users. Unfortunately, some truck drivers do not scan as often as they should.
Many professional truck drivers have become so used to traveling forward that they sometimes neglect their mirror scans. This results in them not having a complete visual of the surroundings of their vehicle. Other truck drivers adjust their mirrors so they can see the outside trailer tires in the mirrors, which results in not being able to see blind spots further outside of the truck.
Distracted driving is also very prevalent among truck drivers and is another reason mirror scans are neglected. Distraction often comes from the use of hands-free phone calls, which we know for a fact are not safer than hand-held phone use. These are important details to keep in mind when teaching your teen how to safely share the road with semi-trucks, since these drivers may not always see you.
The most important thing a new, inexperienced teen driver can do is make the interaction time between their car and the semi-truck as short as possible. This means making speed adjustments to either complete a pass on a semi-truck or slow down and not be stuck beside them. Spend as little time beside large trucks as possible.
Aside from the distractions a truck driver may be self-inflicting, tire failure can also make you vulnerable to a crash or collision. Truck drivers may need to make a quick lane change in your direction if there is trouble ahead in their lane or on their right side. So, teens should know to slow down and let a semi-truck merge over if need be.
Before passing a large truck, it is best to make sure you can see both headlights of the truck in the center of your rear-view mirror, as that is the minimum space that is safe for the car to be ahead of the semi.
These tips for teens should help them feel more comfortable sharing the roadways with these large vehicles and keep them safer while driving. Stay safe on the roads and give each other space and respect.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.