Ninety-four percent of all traffic fatalities occur on highways…the place our most precious commodities, our drivers, work each day! It’s important that every safety precaution is taken by our drivers, as they are our top priority.

No question, the biggest challenge on the road is not our driving, but the driving of literally everyone else on the road. Defensive driving (knowing how to avoid accidents and recognizing potential hazards) is key to keeping our drivers safe.

When driving a big rig, defensive driving is a bit more complicated than driving a typical passenger vehicle, but the principles remain the same:

Distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you. The most essential factor in defensive driving is distance. By looking farther ahead, drivers are increasing their seconds to see, think, and act. These are critical seconds to preventing potential accidents. Keeping a safe following distance also ensures an increase of reaction time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends at least four seconds of distance for a truck traveling 40 mph, then increasing that distance by one second per additional 10 mph. (This means there should be at least seven seconds of distance between vehicles if our drivers are traveling 70 mph.

Always have a way out of potential accident risk. Look to the left and to the right. Use your mirror(s) to be aware of the traffic and vehicles behind you (this knowledge will help in your split-second decision if a mishap develops near you). Also watch out for blind spots, especially while changing lanes. As you stay alert and keep a safe driving distance, be alert to any possible hazards, and always be prepared with a quick strategy to avoid them if possible.

Adjust your speed according to road conditions. The posted speed is not always the safest speed. It is important to slow down in response to changes on the road, such as bad weather, construction zones, or poor visibility. Also, be sure to drive alert. Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after driving eight (8) hours and a 10-hour break between driving shifts.

Don’t become THAT problem driver on the road. When driving on our highways, please use the left lane for passing, not for your driving lane of choice. It was designed to be used as a passing lane when necessary to avoid traffic congestion caused by slower moving vehicles. Using your turn signals before changing lanes is required by law, even if no other vehicles are nearby, and helps prevent collisions. The more drivers use the left lane for passing purposes, the safer everyone is on that stretch of highway. Nothing is more dangerous than traffic being forced to pass on the right side of a left lane violator.

Stay off your cell phone. The cell phone has become a useful everyday tool. Using it while driving, however, is not only illegal in most states, but has proven to lead to many accidents that were otherwise avoidable. Don’t be tempted!