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A young Traverse City resident recently lost her life when the car she was riding in was involved in an auto accident with a semi truck on Garfield Ave. In any accident between a car and semi truck, the car is typically going to lose. With roads as icy as they are this time of year, drivers need to take extra caution when traveling on area roads and highways, especially when there are large trucks sharing the roads with you.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA], a division of th U.S. Department of Transportation, has a website dedicated to safety tips for drivers that share the road with semi trucks. Click here for the site.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the tips offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

1. Cutting in front of a semi truck or a bus can cut your life short

Because busses and trucks take longer to stop than a car, you may create an emergency braking situation for vehicles around you if you suddenly cut in front of them. If, by quickly cutting in front of a semi, you force it to attempt to stop quickly, this might cause a serious or even fatal accident. FMCSA cautions drivers that are passing semi trucks and urges them to wait until you can see the front of the truck in the rear-view mirror before pulling back into that lane of travel. This will avoid emergency braking conditions.

2. Always wear your seat belt

The FMCSA advises that your seat belt is your best protection in case of a crash, especially when that crash involves a a semi truck. If you are struck from behind by a semi, or any other vehicle for that matter, only your belt can prevent you from being injured while you are rocketed about the vehicle. I had a case a few years ago where a client who was belted was struck from behind by a dump truck that was traveling just 40 mph. But, because of the mass of the truck, as her car was propelled forward, her seat back collapsed and she shot out from under the lap belt and into the back seat. The EMT’s found her unconscious in the back seat [she struck her head on the rear roof area] and they couldn’t figure out who had been driving the vehicle. This is one of the dangers of a car crash with a semi truck. With their mass, they don’t have to be going that fast to cause alot of damage. In the case described above, a 40 mph dump truck literally shot the car right out from under my client. Even though the seat belt didn’t protect my client in that case, FMCSA says that wearing the belt is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash with a semi.

3. Watch out for blind spots

Every semi truck has a blind spot. Cars do as well, but the blind spot on a large truck is quite a bit bigger. FMCSA refers to these blind spots as ‘No-Zones" meaning don’t linger in these spots. If you can’t see the semi driver’s side mirrors, he can’t see you. Many drivers are injured because a trucker simply couldn’t see them. Click here for an example of where these zones are.

4. Look out for the "Squeeze Play"

Because of their length, semi trucks need to make wide right turns. Often times, a semi driver will swing wide left before initiating a right hand turn. If you have driven up into the curbside lane between a truck and the curb and that semi driver is going to turn right, you’re going to get "squeezed" between the truck and the curb and could suffer a serious injury as a result. Pay attention to a semi’s turn signals and give them plenty of room.

For other tips – many of which are obvious: don’t drink and drive, don’t drive aggressively, stay attentive and off your cell phone – visit the site link above. Or this one.

I know that these tips couldn’t have saved the life of Kara Kirchler, the young woman I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. The Traverse City Record Eagle reported that the driver of the car she was in crossed the centerline and hit the semi head-on. But this horrible story should serve as a reminder to the rest of us to be careful when driving area roads, especially when there are semi’s or other large trucks about.

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