Have you ever come to a stoplight and seen a semi-truck in the middle lane with its right turn signal on? It can seem confusing, but what most drivers don’t realize is that the truck driver is doing the right thing. Unfortunately, drivers who don’t recognize why they do that may inadvertently contribute to a serious crash. Here’s how.
A semi-truck is a roughly 70ft long rectangle that moves on a hinge. As you can imagine, maneuvering that through an intersection is no easy feat. If the intersection isn’t wide enough, it may be close to impossible.
To make a successful right-hand turn, a semi-truck needs to pull into the intersection and then make a U-shaped bend to maneuver its trailer around the tight corner. For this reason, they tend to make right turns from the middle lane. The problem is that drivers who don’t realize this will get into the regular right-turn lane, which happens to be in the truck driver’s no-zone. Here’s a graphic from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to illustrate:
A truck driver cannot see any vehicles directly next to their truck or anyone in the two lanes to their passenger’s side. That means they might have no idea that someone is in their trailer’s turn radius until they pull ahead and side-swipe them.
This isn’t always the case, of course. While left turns allow truck drivers to make full use of the intersection, turning into a specific lane can be challenging. When it comes to crashes, it’s not unusual for a truck to turn too tightly and side-swipe the car next to them at a double left-turn lane.
Education and Prevention
Preventing these crashes and saving lives starts with better driver education. As more people understand the mechanics of a turning semi-truck, they are less likely to put themselves in danger.
Additionally, some trucks have signs on the back warning of wide turns, but these are by no means standard. It may be that if all semi-trucks had these warnings, drivers would be less likely to be in a serious crash.
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