Drivers are being urged to take extra precautions around large trucks to reduce crashes that result in a significant number of fatalities each year in British Columbia.
The “Be Truck Aware” campaign, led by an alliance of B.C. road safety stakeholders, coincides with Operation Safe Driver week, a continent-wide initiative in which police and commercial vehicle safety and enforcement (CVSE) officers ticket drivers of both cars and trucks for failing to share the road and follow safe driving practices.
One-in-five traffic fatalities in B.C. occur in crashes involving large commercial vehicles. Across North America, studies have shown that in car-truck crashes, occupants of the passenger vehicle are at far greater risk of being killed than the driver of the truck, and that the majority of fatal car-truck crashes are caused by passenger vehicle drivers.
“Everyone has a part to play in staying safe on our roads, so always Be Truck Aware,” says Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “As part of BC’s Road Safety Strategy, we urge all drivers to employ safe driving practices and use extra caution around large commercial vehicles in order to reduce the kinds of crashes that result in tragic fatalities each year in our province.”
Louise Yako, president and CEO of the BC Trucking Association, says that “Safety is a top priority for the trucking industry and our members. Every day, the vast majority of professional truck drivers deliver their loads without mishaps. The driving public can do their part by respecting the safety rules around operating near large trucks so that everyone gets home safely.”
In an average year in B.C., large trucks are involved in less than one per cent of all crashes, but are involved in nearly 20 per cent of fatal crashes. On average, between 2011 and 2015, 285 people were killed each year on B.C.’s roads and highways, 61 of them in crashes involving at least one large commercial vehicle.
A survey of B.C. drivers conducted for the Be Truck Aware Alliance in June 2017 found that 80 per cent of drivers surveyed claim to know how to drive safely around large trucks, but over 40 per cent don’t always drive that way. Nearly one-third of drivers surveyed say they feel nervous driving around big trucks all or most of the time.
Additional studies show that in fatal car-truck collisions, two-thirds or more of the incidents are found to be the fault of the passenger vehicle.
There are several things that drivers of passenger vehicles can do to reduce the risk of crashes and accidents. These include:
Leave space. Large trucks need extra room to stop and to turn. Don’t take away their turning or braking room.
Don’t merge too soon. When passing a truck, make sure you can see both its headlights in your rear-view mirror before merging back into the lane. If you merge too soon, the truck driver may not see you, or may not be able to stop in time to avoid a crash.
Be visible around trucks. Either slow down or move well ahead of large trucks to stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots.
Anticipate wide turns. Watch for trucks making wide swings to turn right. Never drive ahead in the right lane beside a turning truck.
Similarly, truck drivers are being urged to take precautions to reduce crashes and their severity. They can ensure that brakes and tires are in top condition to minimize stopping distances; adjust speed and driving in poor weather and road conditions; stay sharp and focused by getting plenty of rest and eliminating in-cab distractions; and make sure loads are well-balanced and secure, to reduce the likelihood of a crash and its impact on others.
“We’re asking drivers to consider their own driving behaviour around large trucks,” says Lindsay Matthews, director of road safety for ICBC. “If we want our roads to be safer, we first need to start with ourselves. Be aware and take precautions around trucks, including leaving extra space when changing lanes or when trucks are turning.
“The reality is these crashes are preventable, and they’re contributing to the rising number of injury and vehicle-damage claims in our province, which are putting pressure on B.C. insurance rates.”
To learn more about the Be Truck Aware campaign, visit www.gov.bc.ca/betruckaware.