Driving alongside a big rig on the highway can be nerve-wracking. After all, the average car stands little chance of holding up in a collision with a fully loaded semi-truck. It can be hard to know if the truck driver even sees your vehicle. What’s more, while trucks make up only 4% of vehicles on the road, they are involved in roughly one out of ten highway fatalities.

Trucks are vital to our economy, but even a low-speed accident with a truck can be catastrophic. Aside from their size, several unique factors make large trucks dangerous to other vehicles.

Truck driver fatigue

Driver fatigue is especially prevalent in the trucking industry. Truckers are often required to work long service hours that don’t allow them to get the sleep they need. One study that looked at 120,000 collisions involving large trucks found 13% of truck drivers were fatigued at the time of the accident.

Another study found that the average truck driver gets about 4.8 hours of sleep per day – not nearly enough for their minds and bodies to function at optimal levels. According to the CDC, driving drowsy slows reaction times, makes it difficult to focus, and affects the ability to make good decisions.

Distracted driving

Driving while distracted isn’t exclusive to truck drivers, but it can be especially dangerous when truckers do it. Distracted driving can include any activity that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, which for truckers can include using a dispatch radio, looking at the GPS, using their phone, or eating and drinking.

A 2009 study found that distractions played a role in 71% of commercial vehicle accidents and 46% of near-crashes. At speeds of 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road for even five seconds is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Work zone areas

Work zone areas can be tricky for any vehicle to navigate. There may be narrower lanes, stop-and-go traffic or other disruptions that can make driving more dangerous. But alarmingly, nearly 30% of all accidents in work zones involve large trucks.

Due to their size, trucks require more time and space to come to a full stop on the road – especially if they are traveling at high speeds. It’s critical to give truckers the space they need to stop, particularly in a work zone area.

Drivers need to take specific precautions when sharing the road with large trucks to ensure their safety. It’s essential to be mindful of the obstacles truck drivers must overcome to prevent severe damage and injuries.