In 2012 alone there were 333,000 tractor trailer accidents, resulting in nearly 4,000 deaths and over 100,000 injuries, 73% of which were occupants of other vehicles. There's little doubt that we need to treat tractor trailers with special care, since in a collision with a 10,000 to 80,000 pound behemoth there's no question of who's going to sustain the most damage.  While the best way to avoid an accident is to be alert and obey the rules of the road, driving in traffic near large trucks can present safety hazards that even the most careful driver may not think about until it's too late. Here are some tips to avoid accidents when sharing the road with tractor trailers:

Beware of Trucks' Blind Spots

All vehicles have "blind spots", places which cannot be seen in the vehicle's mirrors,  and tractor trailers, due to their size, have much larger blind spots than a normal-sized truck or a car. To ensure that we are not in their blind spots, it's good practice to stay at least four car-lengths behind or ahead of a big truck, even when driving slowly, and to avoid pulling alongside unless passing.  When passing, we should assume that if we cannot see the driver in the truck's side mirror, the driver probably can't see us either.

Don't Travel Beside a Tractor Trailer, and Never Drive Between Two of Them

Again, tractor trailers have very large blind spots, and traveling alongside them can be dangerous.  If the driver can't see us, he may force us into other cars when changing lanes.  This can be doubly dangerous if driving between two trailers, there's the possibility of being pinched between them if neither driver is aware of us.  Stay behind tractor trailers or pass quickly.

Take Extra Care When Changing Lanes

Tractor trailers cannot respond as quickly as smaller vehicles, so changing lanes is more hazardous.  We should always use signals, but when in traffic with large trucks it's prudent to take extra care.  We should give the driver fair warning of what we're about to do, avoid abrupt lane changes, and make sure that we are not in the truck's blind spot.  We also need to be extra vigilant when passing the trailer itself, since it could swing into our lane.

Yield to Trucks

Tractor trailers, due to their great size and weight, are much less maneuverable than other vehicles.  It takes them much longer to stop, to get up to cruising speed, and even to simply slow down.  Trucks make wide turns, and have a more difficult time changing lanes.  Considering this, it only makes sense that we should yield the right-of-way to big trucks, whether that means moving over as they come up behind us, dropping back as they change lanes, or waiting a few extra seconds at a light so that a truck can complete a turn.

Driving in traffic with a tractor trailer is not the same as driving with other cars and trucks, and we need to adjust our behavior accordingly.  While there's no need to treat them like accidents waiting to happen, it does pay to be extra-vigilant and to keep in mind how large and ungainly they really are.