If you live and drive in the Belgrade area, chances are you've had your share of close encounters with semi-trucks. Especially on I-90, semis are such a common sight in Montana that it can be easy to forget just how dangerous they really are. Keep these tips in mind to stay out of harm's way the next time you find yourself sharing a stretch of highway with an 18-wheeler.
Do not treat semis like other cars
One of the most important things you can do to avoid a crash with a semi is to understand how different they are from cars or other passenger vehicles. Weighing in at up to 40 tons, a fully-loaded semi truck is about 20 times heavier than the average passenger vehicle in the United States. And at a length of up to 80 feet, they are also much longer.
These physical changes mean that semi-trucks handle very differently than smaller vehicles. For instance, they take much longer to stop; according to Geico insurance, a fully loaded semi requires about 300 feet to stop when traveling at 65 miles per hour on a dry road - and that does not include the distance covered in the time it takes a driver to notice and react to the need to apply the brakes. Therefore, you should never cut in front of a semi or swerve into its path.
Semis are also far less maneuverable than smaller cars and require more room to make turns. Often, for example, truck drivers must first swing out to the left in order to complete a right turn. This can be dangerous for other drivers on either side of the 18-wheeler, so it is important that you give semis plenty of room to turn.
Understand that you are not equally matched
There is no denying the fact that sharing the road with semis can be an annoyance. They are noisy, they disrupt the flow of traffic, and sometimes the drivers can seem inconsiderate. But before you attempt a risky maneuver to squeeze past a semi-truck or let road rage get the better of you, remind yourself just how high the stakes are if anything should go wrong.
The physical differences between semi-trucks and cars don't just mean that semis drive differently; they also crash differently. The tremendous difference in size, weight and height between the two vehicle types means that passenger car occupants face a much higher risk of death or serious injury in a crash with a semi than do the truck drivers themselves. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that truck occupants made up only 16 percent of people killed in large truck crashes in 2013.
Pay attention to where you are in relation to the truck
Just as semi-trucks are much bigger than passenger vehicles, their blind spots are also much more expansive than those of smaller cars and trucks. The areas directly behind, to the sides and in front of a semi truck are known as "No-Zones" because truck drivers are unable to see other vehicles traveling in those areas. Staying out of the No-Zones can help you avoid accidents by letting truck drivers know where you are. When in doubt about whether or not you are in a No-Zone, check to see if you can see the truck driver - either in the truck's mirrors (when you are behind or to the side) or in your own rear view mirror (when the semi is behind you). If you can't see the driver, he or she can't see you.