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In my previous blog posts, I have focused on how you can help teach your teen to drive safely around a semi-truck on a multi-lane highway. In this blog, I would like to focus on how to handle situations while meeting trucks at intersections.
Professional drivers need a lot of room on the highways due to the size of their vehicles, but they require plenty of space on our smaller in-town streets, as well.
In these situations, trucks need more space due to the many obstacles a driver must navigate around. Obstacles such as light poles, road signs and curbs pose plenty of hazards to professional drivers with 25-foot-long tractors and 53-foot long trailers. This means that when completing right hand turns on any two-lane road to an adjoining two-lane road, the vehicle length requires the driver to enter the opposing lane.
Most parents are familiar with the scene: a truck is making a turn and cars back up to make more room for the truck driver. This might seem like a very courteous action, but it can be extremely dangerous for the people in the car.
One reason it is so dangerous is all motor vehicles are primarily designed to go forward, not backward. Consider the size and location of the windshield versus the mirrors – it is a night and day difference.
My second example is that backing up in a travel lane makes you vulnerable to distracted drivers who may not see you backing up. To echo the thoughts and feelings of regular DriveitHOME guest blogger Mr. Andy Pilgrim, “I don’t want you to be dangerous or vulnerable.” (Realities of Driving Today, Chapter 4)
So, what is our best course of action to help our teen drivers stay safe in these encounters?
It all begins before arriving at the intersection; we must teach our teens to always scan as far down the road as possible.
When approaching an intersection, your teen driver should scan for vehicles approaching from the two cross directions. If your teen sees a tractor-trailer approaching with its turn signal on, your teen should stop further back from the intersection. In most cases, four car lengths is more than enough room for a skilled truck driver to maneuver their vehicle and complete the turn. (See picture below from the Kentucky state CDL guidebook).
Stopping farther back has benefits for both parties. First, the truck driver has more room to make his or her turn safely and courteously. Second, your teen doesn't have to feel "forced" to back up to make room.
Once the truck has made its turn, your teen should check for other vehicles that may need more room to turn than a car might. If there aren’t any, your teen can slowly make his or her way closer to the stop line.
As a side note for parents and teens, keep in mind that any professional truck driver who knows how to maneuver their vehicle in tight spaces will do so without making traffic feel like they have to move. If they cannot accomplish that, they will wait patiently for the traffic, in this case your teen, to clear the intersection so there is room to safely turn.
Our nation’s professional truck drivers care just as much about your teen being safe while driving as you do, so teach your teen to handle these situations safely and show truck drivers the same consideration.
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.