Trucker Blind Spot Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the governmental agency tasked with regulating the trucking industry, estimates approximately one-third of collisions between passenger vehicles and trucks occur in truck blind spots. To reduce the startling statistic, the FMSCA continues to educate the public about the dangers of truck blind spots, referred to as “No-Zones.” Even when you drive defensively and do your best to avoid blind spots, careless truck drivers still leave you at risk for an accident.
Truckers and their employers like to blame other drivers for truck accidents that happen in a truck’s blind spot, but not all truck drivers take the time or effort to clear their blind spots before they turn or change lanes. Their carelessness leads to severe, sometimes fatal accidents. Trucks are at least 20 times heavier than the average passenger vehicle, so collisions typically lead to more severe injuries and a higher chance of death.
This guide offers more information about truck blind spots, so you can learn how to avoid falling victim to careless truckers who don’t clear their blind spots. We offer more details about the size and location of a truck’s blind spots, truck driver behaviors that lead to blind spot accidents, common injuries associated with truck accidents, and the types of accidents most likely to occur if a trucker doesn’t clear his blind spots before making a maneuver. A free consultation with a truck accident lawyer at The Patel Firm can help you learn more about your legal rights after a truck accident.
Trucks Have Blind Spots on All Sides of Their Rig
Avoiding negligent truckers who don’t clear their blind spots means you need to be familiar with their location around a truck. The specific location and size of a truck’s blind spot vary based on the size and type of truck. Semi-trucks have larger blind spots than other trucks on the road.
You can find a tractor-trailer’s blind spots in the following locations:
- Driver’s side. This blind spot starts just below the window and extends towards the rear of the trailer.
- Passenger side. This is the largest blind spot on a truck. It also begins below the window and spans almost the entire trailer. The passenger-side blind spot on a semi also spans about two lanes of traffic.
- Front. Truckers cannot see immediately in front of the cab of their truck forward for approximately 20 feet.
- Rear. Behind the trailer, a semi-truck’s blind spot extends back about 30 feet.
The term blind spot describes these spaces because drivers cannot see any activity in these spaces. Trucks have large blind spots, creating even more visibility issues. Experienced truckers and those who value safety always clear blind spots before they change lanes or make a turn to avoid collisions. Unfortunately, safety is not the number one priority for all truckers. Those who are lazy, careless, or focusing on other things put other motorists at risk for accidents and injury.
Why Do Trucks Have Larger Blind Spots Than Other Vehicles?
All vehicles have blind spots, but heavy trucks, including semis, have exceptionally large blind spots compared to cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs.
The design elements of tractor-trailers and other trucks that create large blind spots include:
- Length of the trailer. Semi-trucks have two parts: the cab and the trailer. The average length of a tractor-trailer is between 70 and 80 feet from the front of the cab to the rear of the trailer. The height of a semi coupled with its length creates the large blind spots that span the length of the trailer on both sides. Some semis pull double or triple trailers that are easily more than 100 feet long, making it almost impossible for the driver to see anything in these huge blind spots.
- Height of the cab. Passenger vehicles sit much lower than tractor-trailers. The added height of a semi makes it difficult for truckers to see any vehicles driving right next to them or in front of them. This is especially true for small cars that ride low to the ground.
- Missing rear-view mirrors. Most truck drivers cannot see passenger vehicles immediately behind them because most trucks do not have rear-view mirrors. Drivers of passenger vehicles can look over their shoulders out the back window to clear a blind spot before changing lanes, but truckers do not have that luxury in most cases.
Negligent Truck Drivers Cause Blind Spot Accidents
A traffic crash in a truck’s blind spot can happen at any time and for many reasons. Sometimes cars tailgate trucks, trucks tailgate cars, or reckless motorists cut off trucks and cause an accident. The vast majority of blind spot truck accidents occur as a result of negligent truckers who are distracted, complacent, poorly trained, or thinking about something else when they need to be attentive to the road. Examples of common situations that lead to blind spot truck accidents include:
Truck drivers are professional drivers who must carry a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), so they know the importance of maintaining focus while driving. Yet, plenty of truckers succumb to common distractions, potentially leading to a severe or fatal blind spot truck accident. The FMCSA has implemented laws about distracted driving for truckers, especially as it relates to cell phone use.
Truckers who hold a CDL break federal laws when they use their cell phone to text, email, or surf the internet while driving. The FMSCA only allows truckers to use cell phones with a hands-free device, typically a Bluetooth earpiece or headset. Drivers can push one button to start or end a phone call or use voice-activated calling on their phone.
It’s likely your mind immediately goes to cell phones when you think of distracted driving, but many other distractions can interfere with a trucker driving safely and clearing his blind spots.
Some of the most common examples of trucker distractions include:
- Adjusting truck features such as the radio, a CB, a GPS, the seat, heat, and A/C
- Eating food and drinking beverages while driving
- Combing hair and other personal grooming habits
- Reaching for a dropped item
- Interacting with a canine or human “running buddy”
- Searching for dropoff and pickup locations in unfamiliar towns and cities
- Focusing on an event outside of the vehicle
The FMCSA estimates that drivers who are awake consistently for 18 hours suffer the same level of impairment as consuming alcohol to a 0.08 blood or breath alcohol level, twice the legal limit for truckers. Truckers have demanding schedules and often drive against their body’s natural clock, making them vulnerable to sleepiness or fatigue.
The FMCSA does require mandatory rest periods each day and each week, but this does not alleviate the entire problem. Impaired truckers do not have the same reaction or judgment when turning or changing lanes. Even if the driver takes the time to clear his blind spots, he can still cut off another vehicle and cause an accident.
You can often depend on the fact that more experienced truckers are likely to clear their blind spots and cause fewer accidents, but this is not always the case. Experienced drivers know their job and know their pickup and delivery locations, which means they are comfortable behind the wheel. As a regular routine sets in, experienced truckers can be complacent and guilty of inattentive driving.
Sometimes experienced drivers become so comfortable that they start to take shortcuts, and put others on the road at risk for accidents and injury, sometimes resulting in death. A trucker only needs to forget to clear his blind spot one time to sideswipe another vehicle, run them off the road, or cut them off.
Some trucking companies force their drivers to attend recurrent training on a yearly basis and/or attend mandatory safety workshops to help them maintain safety behind the wheel. Yet, this does not occur as frequently as you hope. The nation has a massive truck driver shortage, so trucking companies opt to put their drivers on the road instead of in a classroom. They simply do not have enough drivers to allow them to sit through training for a day or two.
Inexperienced Drivers/Poor Training
On the other end of the spectrum, inexperienced drivers can be as dangerous as experienced complacent drivers. Driving a heavy truck requires a large amount of manual dexterity and attention. Sometimes things inside the cab move too fast for new drivers. The truck driver shortage also plays into inexperienced drivers causing blind spot accidents. Trucking companies need drivers so they hire whoever they can, assume they have their CDL so they should be excellent truck drivers, and rush them through company training. In fact, some trucking companies don’t train drivers at all. Without training to force crucial safety habits, such as clearing blind spots, inexperienced and poorly trained drivers put others on the road at risk.
People can experience different types of daydreaming, but the most dangerous for truck drivers is daydreaming that causes them to lose their attention. Everyone has stressors in their life and things that trigger excitement, both of which stem from personal and professional low points and high points.
Consider some of these life situations that can cause a driver to get lost in his own thoughts while driving:
- Just got married or filed for divorce
- Just got pregnant, had a baby, or suffered a miscarriage
- Had a fight with partner, spouse, parents, siblings, or children
- Had an argument with his supervisor
- Has a loved one in the hospital or a loved one passed away
- Received an award or high praise for a job well done
Those who spend long hours driving, like truckers, have ample time to think about the things impacting their life, but sometimes it interferes with driving. When truckers cannot focus on driving, they can make errors while driving, which can lead to severe or fatal blind spot truck accidents.
Blind Spot Accidents Can Lead to Specific Types of Collisions
Truck accidents, including those involving the failure to clear a blind spot, do not stray far from other types of motor vehicle accidents. Yet, a truck’s design lends it to some specific types of accidents. Although we have mostly focused on semis, remember that dump trucks, cement trucks, garbage trucks, and other types of heavy trucks also face the risk of blind spot accidents. Specific accidents more common to truck crashes include:
Negligent truck drivers who fail to clear their blind spots when changing lanes on a highway can strike a passenger vehicle and run them off the road, causing a dangerous, often fatal rollover accident. Cars and trucks that fall into a deep median or ravine face increased risk of a rollover collision. Truckers who lose control when they strike another vehicle can also rollover if they are top-heavy and unstable. Any driver who is traveling in the vicinity of a truck faces the risk of an accident and severe injuries if they cannot avoid the truck.
Truckers who change lanes on the interstate or other multi-lane freeway without clearing their blind spots can sideswipe the vehicle next to them. The force of this type of accident can also lead to a rollover or a multi-vehicle crash.
This type of collision is easily the most fatal and treacherous of all types of crashes associated with blind spot truck accidents. Fortunately, they do not happen as frequently as other types of crashes, and only the smallest vehicles on the road are at risk for underride collisions.
If a trucker changes lanes without clearing his blind spot, he might strike another vehicle, causing it to get lodged under the trailer. If the truck driver does not immediately realize what has happened, he can drag the vehicle under his trailer for some time, making underride collisions especially dangerous. Many drivers and passengers in small vehicles do not survive after an underride collision
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a truck accident because a negligent trucker failed to clear his blind spots, an experienced truck accident lawyer can answer your questions and help you decide whether, or how, to pursue your case.
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