Because of their much greater size and higher ground clearance, tractor-trailer trucks that are involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle are more likely to cause major damage, injuries and even fatalities.
It makes sense that when a passenger car hits a tractor-trailer, the damage is likely to be worse when the vehicle moves head-on into the truck. In the most recent analysis of fatal accidents involving a tractor-trailer, 30 percent of accidents happened when the passenger vehicle hit the truck head-on. And 18 percent happened when the passenger vehicle hit the back of the big rig.
Why Drivers Follow Trucks Closely
You've probably learned not to follow other vehicles too closely, but some people like to tail large trucks in order to save on gasoline. Known as drafting, the idea is that by following the truck closely you can get in the low pressure zone right behind it. This reduces your vehicle's need for fuel.
Does Drafting Work?
It turns out that drivers who engage in drafting are getting some benefit. On the popular show Mythbusters, road tests conducted at 55 miles per hour showed that drivers get an 11 percent improvement in gas mileage by following 100 feet from a tractor-trailer. (They get an almost 40 percent improvement when they follow just 10 feet away.)
However, to be a safe driver, you should follow a large vehicle by at least 150 feet when you're traveling at 55 mph. Going faster on the freeway? You'll need to leave even more room.
What are the Risks of Drafting?
If you are drafting, you are less likely to be able to stop if the truck driver suddenly applies the brakes. In addition, the truck driver won't be able to see you when you follow so closely, so they may change lanes, slow or stop without regard to how that might impact you.
You also may be ticketed for tailgating if you follow a tractor-trailer too closely, especially on the interstate.
Does the Truck Benefit from Drafting?
When you follow a truck very closely and take advantage of the low-pressure pocket that is created, it helps push higher pressure toward the truck. This, in effect, could save the trucker some gas as well, but your small passenger vehicle is unlikely to produce an effect large enough to make a noticeable difference.
In short, while there are benefits to following tractor-trailers closely, the safety issues outweigh the savings in gasoline. If you are involved in an accident with a truck, contact a truck accident lawyer to help guide you through the process, regardless of who is at fault.