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Ask a Trooper: Semis making wide turns

By Staff | May 30, 2014

Q: Say you are sitting at a stop sign waiting to go and a semi with a trailer is coming to turn into the lane on your leftare you obligated to get out of his way or is the truck supposed to wait until you are able to get out of the way? I know some truckers refuse to wait and I end up backing up so they can turn. Not a big deal if no one is behind me, but technically shouldn’t they be the ones to wait?

A: As I speak to different groups around northwest Iowa, it is always interesting to hear the different points of view. Let me illustrate I speak to a couple trucking companies on a regular basis regarding a wide variety of safety topics. I enjoy listening to their stories of ‘near misses’ in their travelsbut more importantly there are always complaints of other drivers (non- commercial) that just don’t know how to drive. By comparison, I speak to many other groups that will often bring up the problems that commercial truck traffic brings to their road, or to their town. Their main issue is that the truckers think they own the road. So who is right, and who is wrong?

The question this week illustrates this debate well. Who should move or give ground at an intersection that may be tight for a semi to get through? A good start in answering this question would be found in the code section discussing where a vehicle is required to stop at a stop sign.

Section 321.322 states:

‘The driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection or at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection…’

The code requires traffic to stop behind the white line, and then move forward to check traffic before pulling into the intersection. Many drivers will simply pull up to the point they can see the entire intersection without stopping farther back. This cuts the angle at which a semi has to maneuver through the intersectionresulting in the car having to back up, or watch as the back duals almost take off their front bumper.

When traffic stops behind the white line, commercial traffic has much more room to maneuver. If a semi strikes your vehicle while you are behind the white stop line, the commercial operator would be at fault.

Is there another angle that we should be looking at when it comes to this issue? I think our reader is onto something, judging by how she asked the question. Driving defensively means anticipating other motorists’ mistakes, and being prepared to avoid a crash when they do. It also means being courteous to those who may need a little extra help from time to time. If you see a semi that’s going to have a tough time making a turn, give them a break and clear the intersection if you can. Semi drivers, if you see that you can’t make the corner, consider waving the traffic through until you can. Eye contact with other drivers is critical in these areas, communicating your intentions in a respectful manner.

By working together and not against each other, both commercial and non-commercial traffic can arrive safely at their destination.