By Gary Cutler
Colorado State Trooper
RBC | When looking at driving safety in our state, it has to be looked at from every angle. This month, I want to talk about driving on the road with semi-trucks. A semi with a trailer is approximately 70 feet on average. Think of that as having a six-story building going down the highway. They are big, bulky, and slow to stop and take up a lot of room when changing direction. Drivers making an error in judgement around semis or a semi driver making an error in judgment around cars can have serious to fatal consequences.
All it takes is a little pre-planning on both the semi driver and the driver’s in other smaller vehicles to make sure a crash doesn’t happen. By this I mean have a plan for the unexpected. Don’t follow too closely, in case the other vehicle has to stop quickly and without notice. Know the stopping distance of your vehicle at highway speeds. For instance, a fully loaded semi-truck with a gross vehicle weight of up to 80,000 pounds, going just 55mph, has a stopping distance of 100 yards; that’s the length of a football field.
Drivers in cars and trucks need to make sure to give semis plenty of space when merging in front of them or you may have it sitting on top of your car. For the semi driver, make sure you are checking and continue to re-check your mirrors when making those lane changes. Smaller cars and trucks can easily hide in those blind spots.
Just because you are big, doesn’t mean you don’t have to give the right of way to other vehicles. Make sure your right of way is free of other traffic prior to merging or turning onto a roadway. On the other side, please give semis a break when they are trying to merge or make turns. It takes a lot of space to maneuver these rigs and to get one going can take some time.
In areas where there is heavy semi traffic, try to avoid the area if possible to reduce your chance of having a crash with one of them. If you drive the semi, try to make sure you don’t get in a small convoy with other semis so you can give the smaller and often local traffic a break.
By being courteous to one another on the roadways, we can eliminate crashes that involve semi-trucks with other vehicles. Try and put yourself in the other person’s vehicle and think about what they would like from you so they can get where they are going, just as they can try to help you get to your destination.
And lastly, in case anyone has forgotten the other big one, here is a reminder: blinkers, blinkers, blinkers.
Remember, these tips are good to pass along to the younger drivers in your life. Please spread the word. As always, safe travels!
By Gary Cutler