Cutting in Front of Me

Last Edited: July 21, 2019 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas), some personal vehicle drivers travel at speeds so much greater than mine that they feel they can cut close in front of my truck as they pass, and leave it behind quickly.  In the first place, many states post road signs illustrating how a vehicle passing another on the left is required to leave a safe distance in front of the passed vehicle before moving into its lane.  Complying with that law is especially important in passing a truck.

A billboard along I-80 in Nevada warned “Cutting off trucks can cut life short.”  The danger is that there is always a possibility that a driver will suddenly encounter an emergency requiring a panic stop or other hard maneuver directly in front of a truck, leaving the truck driver with little chance to avoid a collision or other accident.

One fairly common incident I’ve experienced on multiple-lane city freeways is when I’ve been in the right lane and a driver in an adjacent lane has suddenly swerved in front of my truck to enter a right exit ramp.  Truck lane laws permitting (in dense traffic areas trucks are often prohibited from left lanes in the absence of left exits), I sometimes move to a left lane to pass slower vehicles and avoid the “churn” (vehicle exits and entrances) on the right, and occasionally to take a left exit.  Similar close encounters have occurred with personal vehicle drivers taking left exits.

While a few drivers may be surprised by an unanticipated ramp approach, others evidently don’t want to pull over behind my truck and wait for it to clear the ramp entrance.  A hazardous situation develops when a driver exiting close in front of my truck discovers that the exit ramp is short or curvy or congested and has to brake hard as he enters, forcing me to brake hard as well.

That’s what happened to me for example, on a trip through Knoxville, Tennessee one afternoon.  In that case, after cutting into the right lane in front of me the driver braked hard before entering the exit ramp.  The weather and road conditions were fine and the ramp was straight and unoccupied but down-sloping.  The driver was in a new high performance convertible and should have been comfortable holding off on the brake until on the ramp, but just seemed oblivious to the danger of my truck a few feet behind her vehicle.

An even riskier situation is possible when I’m in the lane to the left of the right lane.  A driver rushing to a right exit by swerving two or more lanes from my left across my lane to the right lane may suddenly be blocked by a vehicle passing my truck in the right lane.  The ensuing maneuver to avoid a collision by that driver with the vehicle in the right lane could result in an accident with my truck.  It is important that you allow for my truck hiding vehicles in the right lane from your vision.

Conversely, a few drivers passing me on the right then hurry to move left to my lane or a lane to my left to take a left exit (see the Passing Me on the Right tip and tips in the Risk Zones chapter).  Since my truck hides vehicles on my left from them, they can also be surprised as they cut left in front of my truck.  The worst situation would of course be meeting a vehicle rushing to a right exit ramp from my left.

TAKEAWAYS

It is important to leave a safe lead distance when passing a truck or other vehicle.

When cutting close in front of a truck on the open road, you risk a rear end collision if you should encounter an emergency requiring a hard maneuver or panic stop.

When you rush from a lane on one side of a truck to take an exit in front of it, you risk a rear end collision if you have to brake for some problem on the ramp.

On multi-lane city freeways and other major highways, when you rush from a lane on one side of a truck close across its front to a lane on its far side, you risk meeting another vehicle on its far side that could result in an accident with that vehicle and/or the truck.

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