Collisions frequently occur when traffic is merging from one lane to another. These merging maneuvers are most prevalent at highway entrance/exit ramps, at the approach to “mix-masters” or highway junctures as well as on local streets and highways where lanes are reduced due to construction of lane obstructions. Did you realize that 2 out of every 10 collisions are the result of an improper lane change maneuver? As a professional truck driver, this situation poses an even greater challenge due to the “blind-spots” inherent to your large vehicle.
Most highway merging collisions are considered “preventable” on the part of the professional driver, and therefore, it is essential that you learn to manage your limited visibility and “blind-spots”. How, you may ask? Well, the best defense is awareness. By being conscious of “blind-spots” and the hazards could possibly be lurking in these spaces–waiting to collide with your vehicle. Sound paranoid? Maybe, but cautious is the term safety professionals prefer.
Commercial motor vehicle accident data shows that more injury collisions occur when an automobile is traveling in the lane to the right of the tractor in an area beside or up to 1 vehicle length ahead of the truck. Depending on the model of tractor that would be an area approx. 23 ft. Think about it, a compact car is only about 14 ft in length. Sound scary? It is.
How do we protect ourselves? The experts offer these suggestions:
- Before beginning your trip, make sure that all mirrors are clean and adjusted to provide the best visibility and minimize the driver’s “blind spots”
- While driving, scan your mirrors often so you will be aware of the traffic around your vehicle.
- Manage your driving space making certain you have enough space to complete your maneuver before you make your move.
- Communicate your desire to merge or change lanes to other drivers by turning your turn signals “on” before you begin your maneuver. Remember signal lights are a request not a “get out of the way I’m coming over”.
- After completing a pass, make sure the vehicle you just passed has the proper following distance behind you before your change lanes back in front of it.
- Watch for any vehicles around your truck that might move into your blind spots. If you had sight of a vehicle and all of the sudden it disappears, it is most likely in your blind spot. Do not change lanes until you determine its location. Never assume anything.
- Be aware of pedestrians as well as vehicles.
- Anticipate and prepare for unexpected actions of other motorists and their responses to your signal light or the changing movement of your vehicle.
- Yield right of way to other motorists as necessary to accommodate traffic flow. Defensive drivers always give the right-of-way.
- Practice patience when other drivers cut in front of your vehicle or make other erratic moves. Slow down and re-establish your safe following distance.
- Never respond to road rage. Don’t let another motorists’ poor driving habits influence your driving. Maintain your professionalism.
Make SAFETY your final Destination.