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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Tips for Passenger Vehicle Drivers

Large trucks and buses have large blind spots, long stopping distances, and make wide turns, which is why it’s vital for everyone on the road to make a plan for road safety. Follow the rules of the road below to learn about actions passenger vehicle drivers can take to help avoid crashes.

1. Avoid Blind Spots 

Try to avoid lingering in blind spots; if you can’t see a truck or bus driver’s face in their mirror, they can’t see you.

2. Be Aware of Long Stopping Distances

Large trucks and buses need the length of up to two football fields to safely stop. Leave extra space when merging in front of these large vehicles, to give them the stopping space they need.

3. Anticipate Wide Turns 

Trucks and buses need extra space and time to make wide turns carefully. Wait for large vehicles to finish turning before continuing your journey. Pay close attention when trucks and buses are turning right, as they may not be able to easily turn from the right lane and may initially move left to create enough turning space.

4. Stay Back

Trucks are much higher off the ground than a passenger vehicle. In the event of a crash behind a truck, passenger vehicles could slide (or be pushed) under a truck. Stay a safe distance back when stopped behind a truck or bus, particularly going up an incline, where large vehicles might roll backward.

5. Merge and Pass Safely

Signal clearly when merging in front of, or passing, large trucks and buses using these tips. 

  • Make sure the truck or bus is visible in your rearview mirror before you merge in front; leave extra space.
  • Avoid passing trucks and buses going down hills, mountains, etc., where they tend to pick up speed due to their heavy weight.
  • Avoid passing from the right lane.
  • When a truck or bus is passing you or merging into traffic from an on-ramp, give them extra space to change lanes safely.

6. Be Patient

Trucks and buses need time to accelerate. Be patient and understand they are driving at a safe speed for their cargo and weight.

7. Buckle Up

Using a safety belt is one of the easiest and most important things drivers can do to save lives. Make sure all passengers are buckled up, and that kids are in the safest seat based on their age.

8. Stay Focused

If you need to do anything in your car besides driving, get off the road and stop. Driving distracted is as dangerous as driving impaired.

9. Avoid Driving Under the Influence or Fatigued

Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment and reaction time. There is no safe limit for drinking before driving. Prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs may cause dizziness, drowsiness, and/or slow reaction time. If you use medication that carries a warning, arrange an alternate driver or use other forms of transportation.

Take regular breaks, switch off driving with a partner, or get off the road and find a safe place to rest if you’re feeling tired or drowsy.

10. Understand the Differences

Large trucks and buses have a significant weight and size difference compared to other vehicles on the road. A tailgating crash between two passenger vehicles may result in a fender bender, however, a similar crash involving a large truck or bus may have greater consequences. 

Weight and size differences greatly affect how truck and bus drivers operate. In fact:

  • Trucks are often 20 to 30 times heavier than passenger vehicles. A tractor-trailer truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.
  • The weight of a truck or bus increases the risk of more severe crash damage, injuries, and fatalities.
  • Large size and weight increase driving challenges, including acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. Trucks and buses accelerate slower uphill and may gain speed quickly downhill.
  • Tall vehicles with a higher center of gravity must travel much slower on curves and ramps to avoid the risk of rollovers.
  • Large vehicles can generate wind gusts that can be felt by vehicles around them; drivers of smaller vehicles should anticipate this and maintain control in their lane.
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Last updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016