All five members of a Minnesota family—two adults and three young children—were killed in Nebraska on Sunday, July 31st in a crash involving a semitrailer. The long-haul trucker driving the rig faces one count of motor vehicle homicide for each death he caused due to what the state trooper’s affidavit described as inattentive and distracted driving. The case has some people asking why the 53-year-old Floridian was still on the road. No stranger to traffic violations, he had a history dating back twenty years—careless driving was just one of those charges.

Although there are cases such as this, where irresponsible driving plays such a large role in causing an accident that it may seem unavoidable, it’s still a good idea to know a thing or two about driving defensively and safely when near tractor-trailers and other trucks.

A motorist’s guide to truck safety: How to safely share and navigate the highways

Keep a safe distance (20 to 25 car lengths) and don’t make any sudden or unpredictable movements. Unexpected things happen on the freeway all the time, and trucks don’t have the advantage when it comes to quick movements. Maintaining a safe following distance just might give you the extra seconds to steer clear of danger.

Avoid blind spots. Every vehicle has blind spots—areas surrounding the vehicle where crashes most frequently occur—and trucks are no exception. These “no zones” are located on both sides of the truck (much larger than in a car), directly in front of the truck (they often have a large hood that they cannot see below), as well as directly behind the truck. Just follow this rule: If you can’t see them in their mirrors, they can’t see you.

Give the truck space. There are circumstances that truck drivers must first swing wide to the left in order to make a right turn. Give the driver the berth his/her truck needs. Never try to pass them when they’re making this maneuver—their rear and side visibility is greatly reduced. Also, trucks require twice as much time and space when coming to stop as cars. If you need to pull in front of a truck, be sure to leave ample room between your vehicle and theirs. Never pull directly in front of a truck and then slow down—this is a surefire way to get rear-ended.

Wait to pass and play it safe. It is not worth the risk to squeeze by just to avoid missing an off ramp. When you pass, make sure the driver can see you and wait until you have plenty of time and space to do it safely. Do not pass behind a truck that is backing up.

Say “no” to road rage. Don’t allow yourself to become so angry that you act on your emotions and do something rash. It’s both frightening and not uncommon to encounter a truck that is speeding or driving unsafely. If you feel strongly that the driver was breaking a law, or driving recklessly, call the police and report the incident to them, but never resort to road rage.

Be aware. Last, but perhaps most important, look for signs that the truck driver is distracted, driving recklessly, or falling asleep at the wheel. Truck driving is an industry that pays by the mile or load, not by the hour, leading many truck drivers to push themselves beyond their own limitations as well as the legal time constraints they’re supposed to adhere to.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a truck, it is very important to see a doctor immediately to document your injuries in a medical record. Then, contact Meshbesher & Spence for a consultation with our personal injury attorneys. Our attorneys are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home as well as in our offices, and will help you determine if you will be able to recover damages for your injuries.