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Take a drive in the shoes -- or the seat -- of a trucker

Do you suffer a twinge of anxiety if you have a big rig alongside, behind or ahead of you as you navigate the busy California highways? That is quite natural, considering the size and weight difference between your vehicle and an 18-wheeler or a tanker truck. Collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks invariably end in catastrophic injuries or death.

There is a love-hate relationship between truckers and passenger vehicle drivers. You have to love them for carting all your favorite merchandise to keep the shelves at your favorite stores stocked, but you might hate them for slowing down traffic and causing you to be late for appointments. However, seeing the problems from the view of truck drivers may help you to be more considerate -- who knows, it might even save your life.

Put yourself in their shoes (or seats)

You might be surprised to learn that certain things motorists do cause stressful moments for truck drivers. The following are actions that might put your life on the line:

  • Cutting in at a traffic light: Some motorists cut in front of trucks at traffic lights to avoid sitting behind them. This requires the massive vehicle to slam on its brakes, and for an 80,000 pound truck, this is almost impossible. If it is a tanker truck, the liquid mass will surge forward, backward and forward again, and the force can cause the truck to jump into the rear of your car — even if it managed to stop in time.
  • Leaving no space to turn: 18-wheelers need more space to make turns in intersections, and truck drivers say it would help if motorists hold back slightly when they see a truck intending to turn. Stopping a couple of feet back from the white line will allow the truck to turn safely.
  • Inconsiderate merging: Truckers maintain that motorists do not check for oncoming trucks as they come down the ramp. Instead, they often only notice them when they are ready to merge. That typically happens as they run out of space, and they leave very little time for the operator of a 60 foot long truck to slow down sufficiently to avoid a collision.
  • Following distance: Remember, if you cannot see the driver in the truck's side view mirror, then he or she cannot see you. Staying well back will also be safer if the big rig should have a blowout or rolls back before pulling off at a stoplight on a hill.
  • Inconsiderate passing: If you have to increase your traveling speed to pass a large truck, slow down gradually once you are in front of it rather than braking suddenly to get back within the speed limit. Also, passing on the right is extremely dangerous, because although a truck has many blind spots, the entire right side is its blind side. Truck drivers usually move into the left lane only when they have to, and would typically move back as soon as they can.
  • Blocking them in: You may not realize the dangers of driving alongside a tractor-trailer rather than passing or staying behind. A gust of wind can cause the trailer to drift into your lane, and a tire blowout could have devastating consequences. Blocking a truck in as you approach a lane ending is also dangerous driving tactics.
  • Impatience: This is the cause of many accidents, especially on secondary roads. Truck drivers want motorists to know that it is as stressful for them, and mutual respect might save lives.

What if your road crosses that of a negligent driver?

Even if you are cautious, you could still fall victim to any negligent driver in California, and if it is a trucker, chances are that catastrophic injuries will have devastating medical and financial consequences. Fortunately, the civil justice system will allow you to pursue recovery of damages. A successful presentation of a personal injury lawsuit in the court might result in a monetary judgment that will cover not only medical expenses but also lost income — past and future — and other financial and emotional damages.

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