Driving big rig: WFLA’s Lindsey Mastis goes to trucker school in Tampa

A few road safety tips - how to drive around semi tractor trailers

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – At Roadmaster in Tampa, tractor-trailer drivers are taught what to do when the vehicles around them do everything wrong. Many drivers admit they don’t know how to react.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 95,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2013. Nearly 4,000 died, and 71 percent of those fatalities were people riding in vehicles other than large trucks.

“I see people take ridiculous chances every day,” said Patricia Perry with Roadmaster.

News Channel 8’s Lindsey Mastis got behind the wheel of a big rig on a training course to see how difficult it is for tractor-trailer drivers to react to obstacles. To simulate a car stopping abruptly, Perry placed two orange cones in the road. At the last second, she yelled “Stop!”

With training, Mastis stopped the big rig without knocking over the cones.

“I was really surprised that I stopped before the cones, because from in there, I thought I hit them because I didn’t even see the cones anymore,” Mastis said.

Mastis didn’t see the cones because semi trucks have blind spots in front, on the sides, and in the back.

Another issue: cars following too closely. To demonstrate how long the blind spot is in the back, Mastis parked a car two tractor-trailer lengths away. Still, Mastis could not see the tractor-trailer driver’s side mirror, which means the vehicle is in the truck’s blind spot.

Perry insists tractor-trailer drivers have to think ahead and avoid crashing with smaller vehicles, even if it means ending up on the side of the road.

“80,000 pounds to hit somebody is like a tank. So you’d rather not hit somebody,” Perry said.

Perry recommends giving tractor-trailers plenty of space, especially when making turns. Do not try to pass if the big rig has its blinker on, because the driver may not be able to see the vehicle. And avoid cutting in and slamming on the brakes, because the semi may not stop in time.

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