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Tips for sharing the roads with 18-wheelers

You glance nervously in the rear-view mirror and see a phalanx of 18-wheelers bearing down on you. You can't move over into the right lane, as it's clogged with traffic. Your white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel intensifies. What can you do?

Being aware and patient are two qualities you will need if you are going to be driving on the interstate among these semitrucks. There's no doubt that sharing the road with big rigs moving at high speeds is a frightening thing indeed. But there are ways to make it a safer driving experience, and below are some safer driving tips to keep in mind.

  • Don't take chances. Wait that extra half-minute or so to change lanes to make sure that you have clearance. If you wind up traveling behind a big rig for a mile or two, it's just a slight inconvenience rather than a tragedy.
  • Use caution when passing. Big trucks have large blind spots at the front, sides and rear that make it impossible for the driver to see smaller passenger vehicles when they occupy those spots. Don't linger longer than necessary in those deadly zones.
  • Be aware of a truck's turning radius. It seems counter-intuitive -- 18-wheelers must arc their trucks out to the left before they can make a right turn safely. Passenger cars should stop and give them room to maneuver before attempting to proceed or go around them.
  • Use care if passing. No driver wants to follow a large semi for miles and miles, but passing these behemoths requires additional patience. First, drivers must assure that they have enough space to safely navigate a passing maneuver around a big rig. Then, it's important not to cut off the trucker by immediately jumping back into the lane right in front of the truck. Remember, that's another blind spot.

Those tips can help keep Kentucky's roads safer, but drivers need to further understand some facts about 18-wheelers.

For instance, the distance a big rig needs to stop to avoid an accident is heavily dependent on factors like the weather conditions and whether or not the truck is carrying a full load. A truck that's hauling a fully-loaded cargo area will require additional time and distance to stop, and even empty trucks -- due to the enormous size and heavy weight -- always require more stopping distance and seconds than passenger cars will.

Fatal dangers of overrides and underrides

Many lives have been lost in the United States due to trucks overriding smaller cars because they couldn't stop in time to avoid a deadly collision.

Conversely, the same is true for underrides, where low-slung vehicles slide beneath the undercarriage of a truck after the impact of a rear-end collision. According to a study done in 2014, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 68 percent of the fatalities in collisions involving big trucks were those in passenger vehicles.

If you wind up injured in an accident with a semitruck, you may be able to pursue compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit in the Kentucky civil court system.

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