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Simple safety tips for sharing the road with commercial trucks

Large commercial trucks are, in many ways, the lifeblood of the American economy. They transport goods, supplies and raw materials from one part of the country to another. They keep malls and supermarkets stocked with new products and fresh produce. Trucks can be faster than other options and more affordable than air transportation for goods.

You can respect the danger presented by commercial trucks by educating yourself about how to stay safe around them. They are present on just about every kind of road at any time of day. Any road that leads to a destination, no matter how remote, could be the site of a commercial truck accident. Since avoiding them usually isn't an option, you should inform yourself about how to stay safe around them.

Watch out for blind spots and wide turns

Commercial trucks have large blind spots, caused by their huge size. The driver in the cab may not be able to see areas around the truck, even with extensive mirrors in place. These blind spots, also dubbed "no zones" by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are areas you should avoid when driving or riding in a vehicle.

For those on the left side of a truck, you should avoid the areas behind the cab and in the front of the trailer itself. On the right side, you need to avoid driving anywhere in the next two lanes that isn't at least 10 feet behind the truck. For those directly behind a truck, a minimum distance of 30 feet is advised. For those in front of a truck, maintain at least 20 feet between the back of your car and the front of the truck.

When you pull up to an intersection next to a truck, look closely. If the truck has turn signals on for either direction, give it a little more space. You might want to stop about a vehicle's length back from the front of the truck or avoid lanes directly next to it.

Stay alert for signs of problematic driving habits

Commercial truck drivers are as prone as the rest of the population to making mistakes. They could get behind the wheel after a few drinks, making it harder for them to focus on the task at hand and increasing the risk of a crash. They could choose to send text messages or otherwise play on their mobile phones. They could also drive when they know they're tired.

Look for warning signs of a commercial driver isn't doing his or her job well. Swerving is a red flag, as is any appearance of distraction, such as a phone (or perhaps a meal) in the hands of the driver. Slow down or change your route to avoid driving in close proximity with any driver who shows signs of impairment behind the wheel, especially commercial drivers.

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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