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Commercial Motor Vehicles Urban Driving

Driving in congested urban settings presents many more challenges than the typical rural route, such as increased traffic volume, multiple lanes of traffic and other drivers sometimes driving erratically at high speeds. To decrease the risk of traffic accidents, commercial motor vehicle drivers should be aware of these urban driving hazards and take necessary steps to stay safe behind the wheel.

Expressway Driving

An expressway is the urban equivalent of a rural highway or interstate. While the posted speed limit and multiple lanes of traffic are similar on expressways and highways, the volume of traffic is generally much higher on expressways.

At many times of the day, bumper-to-bumper traffic is the norm on expressways, making it very difficult to enter, exit and change lanes, especially for a large commercial vehicle. The following tips can make it easier to navigate these heavy-traffic highways.

Entering: Timing is very important when entering an expressway. Since you will likely be entering the expressway from an acceleration lane that blends into traffic, it is important that you time your entrance to fit with the flow of traffic.

Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. More than likely, you will be looking over your shoulder to merge into traffic, so leaving additional space will reduce the risk of a rear-end collision if the driver ahead suddenly slows down. When you are merged into traffic, select a lane and keep an eye out for signs that may restrict truck traffic to specific lanes. Always follow posted road signs and speed limits. Always be alert for drivers that pull directly in front of you shortening the following distance between your vehicle and theirs. A calm attitude is needed in these circumstances as you regain the appropriate following distance.

Changing Lanes: There are several things to check before you make a lane change. First, check ahead and to the sides to make sure no other vehicles are signaling their intention to move into that same lane. If it appears a lane change is safe, check inside and outside mirrors to the rear and look over your shoulder to make sure there are no vehicles in the blind spot. If the path looks clear, signal and steer smoothly into the new lane, keeping your speed constant the entire time.

Exiting: The best way to ensure a smooth exit is to know which exit you will be using several miles in advance, so you can get into the proper lane. Do not slow down while you are still in the main lanes of traffic, especially if there is a vehicle following closely. It goes without saying that you should never completely stop in a lane when trying not to miss your exit.

Most expressways have a deceleration lane so you can reduce speed prior to the exit. If you find yourself unable to make it over in time to take the exit, keep going to the next exit and backtrack from there. When you are on the exit ramp, pay attention to posted speed limits and other caution signs, especially those warning of sharp curves.

City Street Driving

Driving on city streets requires constant attention and concentration. While the expressway presented the challenges of high speed and heavy traffic, city streets pose different hazards, such as traffic signals, pedestrians, narrow roads, trees, visual obstructions, etc. The following tips will help you navigate safely on city streets:

  • Scan the road: Don't become focused on just the vehicle ahead of you. Instead, move your eyes from side to side, even a block or two ahead.
  • Check mirrors: Not all the action is happening in front of you, so it is important to check the rear and sides of your vehicle.
  • Look for taillights: Keep a close eye on the taillights ahead for warning of a traffic slowdown or stoppage.
  • Watch for pedestrians: Pedestrians and bicyclists often move into traffic without advance warning. If you find yourself in a pedestrian or bicycling area, slow down and be prepared to stop.
  • Watch for driveways, alleyways and parking lots: Vehicles may appear suddenly, and you may not see them until they have pulled out into the street. Pay special attention to areas where other drivers' vision may be obstructed by trees, shrubs, fences, other vehicles, etc.
  • Stay on specified routes: Keep an eye out for signs that require specific routes for commercial vehicles. For example, these signs might warn of a low overpass, narrow bridge or maximum weight limit. Do not take shortcuts through residential areas or parking lots where pedestrians are more likely to be present.

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