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Truck Accidents

Driving Tips Your Teen Never Learned

Ten essential tips that go beyond what your teen learned in driving school

Semi truck with trailer on the road
Metier Law Firm

By Metier Law Firm

5 min read

Safe Driving Tips That Your Teen Never Learned

As a board-certified truck accident lawyer, I've seen firsthand the devastating consequences of unsafe driving habits. While driving schools cover the basics, there are other critical tips that can help ensure your teenager’s safety on the road.

Here are ten essential tips that go beyond what they learned in driving school:

1. Understanding the Blind Spots of Large Trucks

Large trucks have large blind spots, often referred to as "No Zones," where the truck driver’s visibility is severely limited. These areas are:
•    Directly behind the truck
•    Alongside the truck, particularly on the right side
•    Directly in front of the truck

Semi Truck coming up behind a carTip: Teach your teenager to avoid lingering in these blind spots. If they cannot see the truck driver’s mirrors, the truck driver likely cannot see them.

2. Safe Following Distance

Tailgating is particularly hazardous behind large trucks because their weight requires more time to stop. A semi-truck traveling at 65 mph in good conditions needs about 525 feet, or five to six seconds, to stop. This distance is roughly 1½ football fields and is 40% longer than what a passenger car needs to stop.

Tip: Encourage your teenager to maintain a safe following distance. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least a three to four-second gap between their vehicle and the truck in front. In adverse weather conditions, commercial trucks require increased stopping distances.

It takes a commercial truck longer to stop because it is much bigger and heavier than a car. A truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, while a car usually weighs around 3,000 pounds. This extra weight means the truck has more momentum and needs more time and distance to slow down and stop completely. Also, trucks have larger and more complicated brakes, which take longer to fully engage compared to car brakes.

3. Watching for Wide Turns

Semi-trucks require additional space to execute wide turns, particularly when making right turns. This is because of the substantial size and extended length of commercial truck trailers. When a truck turns right, its back wheels take a shorter path than the front wheels, making the trailer swing wide into other lanes. 

Tip: Instruct your teenager to exercise caution when they observe a truck preparing to turn. They should never try to squeeze between the truck and the curb, as this can lead to serious accidents.

4. Dealing with Truck Turbulence

When a large truck passes a smaller car, or a smaller car passes a truck, the truck can create strong winds called turbulence. These strong winds can suddenly push smaller cars to the side, causing them to swerve or drift.
This can be dangerous because it might make the driver lose control of the car for a moment.

Tip: When passing a truck, do so quickly and safely, and avoid spending too much time in the truck driver’s blind spot. Ensure your teenager understands the importance of holding the steering wheel firmly to counteract any turbulence.

Side of a Semi Truck
5. Recognizing and Reacting to Truck Signals

Truck drivers use a variety of signals to communicate their intentions. These include turn signals, brake lights, and sometimes even hand signals.

Tip: Educate your teenager on the importance of observing these signals and reacting properly and timely. For instance, if a truck signals a lane change, it’s best to give the truck plenty of space to maneuver safely.

6. Adjusting Speed and Position on Highway On-Ramps

Merging onto a highway can be stressful, especially when dealing with fast-moving trucks. A teen driver must understand how to match the speed of traffic and find a gap to merge into for several reasons:

Safety: Matching the speed of highway traffic helps ensure a smooth and safe merge. If a vehicle is moving too slowly, it can disrupt the flow of traffic and increase the risk of collisions.

Preventing Accidents: Fast-moving trucks have limited maneuverability and longer stopping distances. If a merging vehicle suddenly appears in front of them at a slower speed, it can lead to dangerous situations and potential accidents.

Traffic Flow: Proper merging keeps the traffic flow steady and reduces congestion. Sudden slowdowns or abrupt stops can create bottlenecks and increase the likelihood of rear-end collisions.

Tip: Teach them to use the on-ramp to accelerate to the speed of the highway traffic and to signal early. They should check their mirrors and blind spots carefully before merging. 

7. Understanding the Impact of Weather Conditions

Weather conditions can greatly affect driving safety, particularly when sharing the road with large trucks. Wet, icy, or foggy conditions can make trucks harder to stop and less stable.

Tip: Remind your teenager to increase their following distance during bad weather and to drive more cautiously. They should also be aware of the spray that trucks can create in wet conditions, which can reduce visibility.

8. Avoiding Distracted Driving

Distractions are a major cause of accidents, and driving around large trucks requires full attention. Whether it involves texting, eating, or adjusting the radio, any distraction can pose significant danger.

Tip: Advise your teenager to maintain their focus on the road. Semi-trucks are unable to react as quickly as a car to sudden moves by inattentive drivers. Explain the importance of pulling over safely if they need to use their phone or deal with other distractions. 

9. Using Headlights Properly

Proper use of headlights is crucial for maintaining visibility, especially when driving near large trucks at night. Commercial trucks require more time to stop because of their weight. If the truck driver cannot see your vehicle's lights in poor visibility, the risk of an accident increases significantly.

Tip: Teach your teenager to use their headlights from dusk until dawn and in any situation with low visibility. They should also learn to dim high beams when approaching or following other vehicles to avoid blinding other drivers.

white semi truck against a sunset
10. Practicing Defensive Driving

Defensive driving is a set of skills that help drivers predict and respond to road hazards, reducing the risk of accidents.

Tip: Instruct your teenager to anticipate the actions of other drivers, especially large trucks. Defensive driving means being extra careful at intersections and giving large trucks plenty of space on the road. It also involves being ready for sudden stops or lane changes.

Conclusion

Driving school gives you the basics, but real-world driving means you need to understand and react to heavy trucks on the road. By teaching your teenager these additional safety tips, you can help them become more confident and responsible drivers.

Remember, safety on the road is paramount, and these extra precautions can make a significant difference in preventing accidents.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a commercial truck, it's important to act fast. To prove fault, you need to obtain key evidence from the trucking company, like the truck’s black box data and safety logs. Contact our office today for a free consultation. A truck accident attorney will help you and your teen driver navigate the complexities of your potential claim and provide peace of mind during this challenging time.

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