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How to safely drive semi trucks (or drive next to one) in high winds

Windy conditions can be dangerous for travel, especially in high-profile vehicles.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado is expecting strong winds throughout the weekend that could lead to blowing snow and whiteout conditions. Gusts could reach 70-90 miles per hour or more in some areas.

These conditions can be dangerous for travel, especially in high-profile vehicles like semi trucks.

“They act as a parasail,” explained Jason Emery, the CEO of Excel Driver Services. “Essentially, when the wind hits it — its covering a gigantic surface area going down the roadway at a high rate of speed. So anytime you lose traction it increases the exposure of you jackknifing or rolling the vehicle, laying it on its side.”

Emery’s team teaches driving courses for first responders, commercial driver’s licenses and more. They also use virtual reality and simulation technology to help their students learn.

That includes training CDL students to navigate through the wind, or simply avoid it instead.

“I don’t want my drivers ever driving when the wind is… sustainable at 40 miles per hour or more,” Emery said. 

Colorado winds can be especially tough.

“I-70 can be brutal, but I-25 is always the one that gets most people,’ Emery said. “Especially closer to Wyoming. Open areas, down in Alamosa, down in southern parts of the state, I-70 near the peaks of Vail, Eisenhower Tunnel —  those are the big ones.”

Emery also offers some advice to the other drivers on the road, the ones traveling behind or next to a semi on a windy day.

“When you’re passing a vehicle, remember that the truck is pushing a huge amount of wind. When its pushing that wind and you get close to about the driver’s side door, you’re going to feel the wind that that truck is pushing laterally moving your vehicle," he explained. "So when you’re passing them, expect that abrupt wind burst, especially when you clear it. The wind is going to hit you whatever direction it's going.”

Emery said drivers should stay focused on the road and keep both hands on the wheel in this situation. That way it will be easy to control the vehicle during a wind gust and avoid over-correcting.

“Don’t try to pass a vehicle because you’re in a hurry when you’re in inclement weather,” he said. “It’s just a dangerous thing. Same thing with snow plows, same thing with any type of commercial truck — when people get into a hurry is when they tend to get out of control.”

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