Drivers of passenger vehicles must share the road with many types of vehicles and pedestrians. Being surrounded by cars zipping around you brings about its own set of challenges. But if you’re on the road and find yourself sharing it with one that’s large or slow, you may have to take precautions as well. Here are some tips on safe driving around larger and slower vehicles.
Dealing with Large Vehicles
Large vehicles, such as trucks or buses, are easy to spot but they can be unpredictable on the road. Driving alongside them can be stressful and, if you’re not careful, dangerous. Knowing how to navigate around them can offer you a layer of protection (as well as peace of mind) as you’re traveling.
Be careful of its blind spots.
Compared to a car, large vehicles also have bigger blind spots. Imagine this:
- On the driver’s side, it’s one lane wide and extends halfway to the end of the trailer
- On the passenger’s side, it’s two lanes wide and extends slightly past the end of the trailer
- Approximately 20 feet in front
- About 30 feet behind
That’s a lot of space where, if you find yourself within those zones, the large vehicle’s driver has no visibility of you. You can choose to move ahead or to slow down, allowing the driver to see you.
If you need to pass it, do it safely.
Large vehicles cannot stop as quickly as smaller cars, so if you need to pass it, you must practice caution. Always use the lane on the left — the driver will find it easier to see you from there.
Signal clearly in advance and keep a consistent speed as you pass. Once you’ve passed it, wait until you can see the vehicle from your rearview mirror to ensure there’s more than enough distance between you before you rejoin the flow of traffic.
Keep a stretch between you if you’re driving behind it.
If you find yourself behind a large vehicle, such as a big rig, make sure you have ample space in between. The additional distance helps protect you in case you are rear-ended or if you cannot stop in time, you may be pushed underneath the trailer.
This kind of positioning also provides more reaction time should there be other incidents such as tire blowouts or rollovers. Even if traffic stops, leave space between you and the truck, just in case it begins to roll backward.
Certain slow-moving farm vehicles, construction equipment and animal-drawn vehicles may share our roadways. Use caution and prepare to slow down when approaching and passing slow-moving vehicles from the rear. An orange slow-moving vehicle emblem must be on the rear of certain slow-moving vehicles.
Normal speeds for slow-moving vehicles may range from 5-20 mph. When a vehicle traveling at normal highway speed approaches a slow-moving vehicle from the rear, the speed differential will dramatically shorten the time it takes to reach the slow-moving vehicle.
Turns and Passing
Slow-moving vehicles may make wide turns and may turn right or left at any time into unmarked entrances. When approaching from the rear, stay a safe distance behind the vehicle until it is safe to pass, then be certain the driver has seen you and is aware of your intent to pass before you begin.
Large Vehicle Lighting
When lights are required, a flashing amber signal must be mounted as high as possible on the rear of the vehicle. It must be visible for 500 feet in sunlight. Other devices to identify slow-moving vehicles may include reflectors, rotating or oscillating amber lights.
Slower traffic must drive in the right lane. The left lane is for passing and turning. Slow moving vehicles may be wider than the lane width so it may be necessary for these vehicles to temporarily move into an adjoining lane to avoid roadside obstructions.