Summer is a carefree time of great weather that signals the unofficial time for travel. Whether you’ve planned a vacation or just engage in weekend getaways or day trips, traffic increases in summer and becomes risky for drivers of all vehicles. Speeding becomes the norm for many who feel the urge to reach a destination filled with fun times. And with speeding, reaction times decrease while stopping distances increase, creating a crash condition that can be deadly and can quickly change the outcome of what should be a joyful outing turned suddenly bad.
Traffic always consists of a variety of different vehicles from motorcycles to tractor trailers and all shapes and sizes of conveyances in between. Each has differing driving characteristics of handling, speed, steering and braking. The first rule of driving in heavy traffic is “Know your vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses and drive within its limits”.
A wise old veteran truck driver always warned novice drivers, “Stay away from the traffic or the traffic will get you”. What he meant was to keep a rigid following distance from any vehicle ahead. Traffic is unpredictable at the best of times. Maintaining a safe following distance affords you an increased reaction time for taking evasive action that could avoid or lessen the severity of an incident.
If you are driving a smaller vehicle like a motorcycle, car or pickup truck and are following close behind a larger truck such as a straight truck or tractor trailer you should know that doing so seriously endangers your life. Some folks actually believe that staying close to a truck in front reduces drag and will save fuel for the smaller vehicle. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Trucks create more wind at the end of their vehicles caused by the vortex created by air flow from the sides of the truck converging at the rear. Such practice can create dangerous handling problems for the smaller vehicle. Adequate following distance is just as important in this case.
Never run alongside a moving truck on a multi-lane highway. Trucks have multiple axles and dual tire arrangements that are subject to wear. At any time, a tire tread may break loose and fly off to the side. Truck tire treads are large – the size of a full-grown alligator and heavy enough to render damage to your vehicle and cause a crash. And it can happen without warning. That’s not a situation you will want to find yourself in.
If you are traveling beside a truck that you are passing, expedite the move and get back in the right lane after a reasonable delay. Never forget that trucks have fixed mirrors that provide limited vision to the drivers. Blind spots keep a truck driver from viewing every vehicle in its proximity, especially the sides and rear of the truck.
If you are following behind a large truck and suddenly hear the loud staccato bark from the truck’s exhaust, recognize it as the engine brake and indicate that the truck is slowing even though brake lights are not activated. Take care and slow with the truck to avoid a collision. Pass with care when the traffic allows, and always signal your intention. Never cut back in just ahead of the truck that may be hauling freight with a total weight of 80,000 pounds. No truck can stop on a dime. That goes for loaded or empty. And in a collision with a truck, the smaller vehicle always loses.
No matter where you are going, not just during a summer of travel, but every time you go, remember these pointers and know your surroundings. We wish you pleasant travels on the highways. Motor on safely, and leave room for the trucks.