Should You Fear Driving Alongside a Semi-Truck?

It’s fairly common for drivers, especially newer drivers, to experience fear or unease when driving alongside semi-trucks. Semi-trucks are large and imposing and, given the physics of automobile accidents, are more likely to cause serious injury to or death of a crash victim when involved in an accident. Further, a wide variety of factors influences the safety of driving near semi-trucks, and many of them are outside the control of the average driver.

Frightening Sights

Your level of trepidation when riding alongside various vehicles is heavily influenced by the terrifying crash aftermath photos and videos you have likely seen in the media. Seeing media coverage of just one semi truck jackknife accident is enough to cause your next drive alongside an 18-wheeler to involve white knuckles. The stark reality is that you do have some cause for concern.

Common Causes of Semi-Truck Crashes

Many of the common causes of semi-truck crashes are out of the control of anyone but the semi-truck operator. Operators driving at excessive speeds, not adhering to proper following-distance guidelines, carrying unbalanced loads and driving fatigued are some of the highest causes of crashes. Another common crash factor is inexperienced or untrained operators, and, unfortunately, some companies seek to drive down costs by hiring less experienced drivers. Finally, bad weather is a very common cause or contributing factor to these accidents since slick or icy roads lead to a loss of the friction semi-trucks depend on for stability and control.

Anxiety Reduction

Despite many of these causes or contributing factors being outside the control of the typical driver, there are some concrete steps you can take to drive more safely when alongside or near a semi-truck. One of the biggest things you can do is actively work to reduce your anxiety. Heightened anxiety when alongside or near a semi-truck can cause your actions or reactions to become overexaggerated, such as infringing on another lane as you subconsciously put an increased distance between you and the semi-truck while you pass or swerving unexpectedly in reaction to a semi-truck coming toward you. 

Other Safety Practices

In addition to reducing your anxiety, there are other safety practices you can observe to lessen the chances of your being involved in an accident with a semi-truck or, at least, lessen the risk of grave injury should you become involved in such a crash. You should give all semi-trucks extra space between you and them, especially when they are behind you as they need much more stopping distance than an average vehicle. Keep a close eye on semis behind you, and change lanes if possible if they are following too closely. Also, don’t slip in front of a semi when merging with traffic as this unexpectedly closes the following distance truck operators think they have. Finally, stay out of a truck’s blind spot, never pass semi-trucks on the right and ensure you never infringe on a truck’s lane.

Semi-trucks outweigh the average vehicle by about 16-fold, and they are much larger, so everything they do from turning to stopping takes more time and space. Though you may not be able to control many crash factors, practicing defensive driving should go a long way to reducing your chances of being involved in a bad semi-truck accident.


As a mechanical engineer turned blogger, Charlie provides readers with a technical, yet accessible look into the world of automotive engineering and design. His insightful posts make complex car technologies understandable.