Skip to main content
Blog category: Driving

Roadway Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Sharing the Road with Semi-Trucks

4 min read

Good and not-so-good drivers alike face daily challenges on our nation’s roads. Bad weather, distractions, heavy traffic, and construction can all contribute to less-than-ideal driving conditions. Add the ever-increasing number of semi-trucks sharing the roadways and you have a recipe for disaster.

Collisions involving semi-trucks or “big rigs” are on the rise. According to the NTHSA, 4,842 semi-trucks were involved in a fatal crash in 2020. This is a 33 percent increase since 2011. Given the size of a semi, it’s no surprise that colliding with one of these juggernauts can be more dangerous than an accident involving two smaller vehicles.

Below we list a few dos and don’ts that, when followed, will help keep everyone safe while sharing the road with semi-trucks.

Do avoid blind spots: All vehicles have blind spots, but big rigs have even larger areas, known as “no-visibility zones” that can’t be seen by the driver sitting up in the cab of his vehicle. There’s one in front of the truck, one directly behind, one on the left, and a fourth spot on the right. Avoid lingering in any of these areas, but this is especially important on the right side of the truck since that no-zone can stretch over several lanes.

Do pass quickly: If you can’t avoid getting in one of a semi’s blind spots (and you may not be able to if the road is busy), get out of it as fast as you can. If the truck operator wants to change lanes but can’t see you, it could mean trouble.

Do use turn signals: Practicing safe lane changes is always a good idea, but it becomes even more important when you’re passing a big rig. Give them plenty of notice you’re planning on moving over so they have time to slow down. Conversely, watch for a truck’s turn signals as well, since they need a wide berth to move over or turn around and time to do so.

Do drive defensively: You can’t control how others drive, but you can control your actions behind the wheel. It doesn’t hurt to assume that other drivers — especially tired, road-weary big-rig drivers — will take chances and sometimes make mistakes. So, drive carefully, obey the speed limit, and anticipate situations before they turn into accidents.

Do exercise patience: You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but you stand a better chance of getting there safely if you slow down. Allow truck drivers the time they need to get up to speed rather than racing around them to get in front.

Don’t cut them off: These juggernauts can carry up to 80,000 pounds. That weight combined with a possible delayed reaction from the driver if you surprise him, will make it difficult for him to slow down in time. A good rule of thumb is to stay 5 to 6 car lengths behind.

Don’t pass on downgrades: A heavy truck gathers speed quickly when it’s heading downhill, which makes it even more difficult for it to stop in time. It’s best to simply stay out of their way and wait till you level out again before attempting any passing maneuvers.

Don’t brake suddenly: If you’re in front of a big rig, avoid slamming on your brakes for the same reason as above. Also, keep an eye on the brake lights of the vehicle in front of you and slow down gradually if you need to, so there are no surprises for the rig behind you.

Don’t tailgate: No driver enjoys having another vehicle right on their back bumper and big rig operators are no exception. What’s more, this is a dangerous place to hang out as you’ll be in their rear blind spot. And you’ll be vulnerable if the truck were to blow a tire. The force of a flying section of a truck tire can be as devasting as being hit by the truck. Again, leave enough room between you and the semi in front of you.

Don’t forget to watch mirrors: This is an easy one…if you can’t see the truck driver’s face in their side mirror, it means you’re in their blind spot and…they can’t see you.

There will always be an element of risk when traversing busy roadways at the same time as the lumbering behemoths that keep our nation’s commerce moving. But if you take extreme care, drive defensively, and practice patience, it will go a long way to keeping you, your passengers, and other drivers out of harm’s way.

Good drivers often get rewarded for their careful habits with lower premiums. Speak with a Wawanesa agent today and find out if you could save even more.

Advertisement: Get proof of insurance, make payments, and more. Online 24/7. Click to access My Account.

Related Articles

See All Driving Articles


The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

Get a Quote Today