Regardless of the amount of years you’ve been a licensed driver, driving alongside a semi-truck on the freeway is an uncomfortable experience. Sharing the road with big trucks is common, and if the proper precautions aren’t taken, drivers can lose their lives.
Teen drivers are inexperienced, which makes them particularly vulnerable to common driving risks, including how to safely navigate around semi-trucks. Fortunately, there are many ways to both quell the uneasiness and create a safer driving environment. Here are some tips for teaching your teen to drive safely around semi-trucks:
Keep your distance
Truckers not only take up a lot of space, but also need a lot of space if they’re to operate their vehicles as safely as possible. Teaching your teen driver how to gauge a proper following distance and the gaps in traffic is an excellent way to not only keep yourself safe, but also everyone else around you. Here are some tips to share with your teen on how to maintain a safe driving distance:
- When passing a semi-truck, drivers should give themselves plenty of space, use a blinker respectfully and get around the truck quickly. The longer it takes to pass, and the more sudden movements drivers make, the stronger your chances are of being hit.
- Don’t tailgate a trucker. It doesn’t give you enough time to brake if the trucker decides to come to a sudden stop. Tailgating also is guaranteed to annoy the trucker, making him less likely to let you pass.
- If you’re ahead of the trucker in your lane, try not to stop suddenly. Fully-loaded rigs need about three football fields worth of distance to stop. They can easily rear end you if you stomp on your brakes out of nowhere.
Stay away from blind spots
Most people learn about the dangers of blind spots in driver’s education, but for truckers, these low-visibility areas are much larger and therefore much more likely to cause problems on the road. Here are the places to teach your teen drivers to avoid whenever they drive near a truck:
- You are completely invisible to a trucker if you’re directly behind his rig.
- If you’re passing a trucker on the right or left, he can’t see you until you’re about parallel with the cab of his truck.
- You also risk being unseen if you’re right in front of the truck.
Road rage is a prevalent problem for drivers everywhere, but there’s really no place for it if you’re near a semi-truck. If there’s a semi-truck nearby, remind your teen to be cool. Here’s why:
- Getting flustered behind the wheel and taking it out on other motorists only increases the chances of human error, which often results in life-threatening crashes.
- Anger begets anger. Much like other drivers, truckers are known to get a little edgy behind the wheel, especially if they’re pulling a really long haul.
- Basically, if you decide to pick a fight with a semi-truck, it’s a battle you’re likely to lose, no matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving.
Practice with your teen driver
Teens only gain driving experience by actually driving. Here are some things to remember when you’re teaching your teen to drive:
- Practice driving in complex situations, such as on the highway where teens most likely will have to pass a semi-truck. Merging and gauging following distance are common skills teen drivers struggle to learn. Practicing maneuvering around a semi-truck is a good way to work on those skills as well.
- Stay vigilant. Coaching your teen driver doesn’t end when he or she receives an unrestricted license. The National Safety Council recommends continuing to ride with teens for at least 30 minutes each week during teens’ first year of licensure.
- Practice what you preach. A study from The Allstate Foundation found 80 percent of teen drivers are most influenced by their parents. Wear a seat belt, put down your cell phone and stay calm behind the wheel.
As you can see, driving around semi-trucks doesn’t have to be a scary experience. It may take some time for teens to build roadway courage and confidence. Once they do, they’ll not only reduce the chances of a crash, but also help ensure the safety of everyone sharing the road with your teen driver.
Author Bio: Mark Kinsel has been a part of the trucking industry for over 19 years, and even though he doesn’t spend much time behind the wheel anymore, he uses his experiences to teach new drivers the importance of OTR safety. He’s also a writer for Great CDL.