Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

May 27, 2013
Summer driving danger: Don't get stuck in a truck's 'no zone'

As Memorial Day revs up the summer driving season, drivers are reminded about one of the biggest dangers: sharing the road with big trucks.

Compared with passenger cars, trucks are heavier, need far more braking distance to stop, a bigger radius when turning, and more maneuvering room to avoid roadway hazards. And they also have lots of blind spots where they can't see your car.

All of which can spell disaster: In 2011, nearly 3,400 people died nationwide in collisions with big-rig trucks, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Of those fatalities, 66 percent were occupants of passenger cars.

"It doesn't get much notice because they trickled in one at a time," said Tully Lehman, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, in an email. "But this would be the equivalent of 19 Boeing 737s crashing in a single year. If that were to happen, you would see congressional hearings ... into a major transportation safety issue."

To demonstrate safety on the road, the IINC, California Highway Patrol and California Trucking Association recently hosted a live Bay Area demo, showing how much distance a big rig needs to stop, compared with a passenger car. Because a big rig is about 20 to 30 times heavier than a standard sedan, Lehman noted, it needs about 300 feet, roughly the length of a football field, to come to a stop.

Pay attention to how to avoid a truck's blind spots.

Here are more tips from the CHP on sharing the road with big rigs:

• Allow plenty of room when changing lanes in front of a truck.

• Pass trucks quickly and don't linger beside a truck.

• Pass a truck on the left, not the right. A truck's righthand blind spot runs the length of the trailer and extends out three lanes.

• Allow plenty of room around trucks. Try to leave a 10-car gap when driving in front of a truck and 20-25 car lengths when following a truck.

• Use a truck's mirrors. If you are following a truck and cannot see the driver's face in the truck's side mirrors, it means the driver cannot see you.

• Give trucks adequate space to maneuver. Trucks make wide turns at intersections and require additional lanes to turn.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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