Many people believe that, because a truck driver sits higher than passenger vehicles, the driver can see everything. This common misconception leads to thousands of truck accidents each year. The best way to stay out of a truck’s blind spots is to check the truck’s mirrors. If you cannot see the driver in his or her rearview mirrors, the driver cannot see you, and you are at a higher risk of getting hit by the truck.
Big Blind Spots
A tractor-trailer truck has the largest blind spots or no-zones because of the height and length of the trailer. Smaller trucks have similar blind spots, but the blind spots are smaller. Looking for the mirrors on any truck will help keep you out of any truck’s no zone. If you cannot see the truck’s door mirrors—the full mirror—you are in a truck’s blind spot.
The side blind spots are located under each door mirror and extending out. On the left side, the blind spot extends out for at least the width of a lane. On the right side, the no-zone extends out at least the width of two lanes. The further away from the truck’s side you are, the deeper the blind spot.
Semis and other trucks also have blind spots in the front and rear. A semi driver has at least 20 feet in front of the truck that is blind and 30 feet behind the trailer that is blind. When you merge in front of a truck and do not give the truck enough space, you risk getting hit since the truck driver cannot see you once you move past the front fender. If you are tailgating, you reduce the truck driver’s options. If the driver knows you are in his or her blind spot, and has to take evasive actions, he or she might choose a different action that could result in less injury if you are seen.
Many vehicles have blind-spot monitoring or blind-spot warning systems, forward collision mitigation, automatic emergency braking, and other active safety features to help drivers avoid accidents. However, these features have not been implemented on trucks yet.
If trucking manufacturers added at least blind-spot monitoring or blind-spot warning, it would help truck drivers avoid people who move into their blind spots, especially when a truck is making a wide right turn.
Avoiding a Truck Wreck
As a driver in a passenger vehicle, avoid wrecks with trucks by paying more attention to your surroundings, including the traffic around you. Some things to keep in mind when driving with trucks, whether on the highway or secondary roads, include:
- Make sure you can see the truck’s door mirrors.
- Understand that, because of the size and weight of a truck, especially a loaded truck, it cannot make fast evasive maneuvers.
- Never tailgate or “push” a truck. You are too close, likely sitting in the truck’s rear blind spot. If the driver has to stop fast, the trailer could fishtail and wipe you out.
- Always signal well in advance of passing a truck. Once you start the passing maneuver, pass as quickly and safely as possible so that you get out of the truck’s blind spot. If you signal ahead of time, you give the truck driver time to notice your turn signal before you get into the truck’s blind spot.
- Never pass a truck on the right, especially if the driver has his turn signal on. Trucks need to turn wide and often take up a full lane to make a right turn.
In addition to staying out of a truck’s blind spots, you should keep your distance in case the load shifts. Even a box trailer can lose control of its load. If the load is not properly secured, it could slide out of the rear doors and right into your car. Open trailers have the risk of cargo sliding off the side should the load shift or should a cargo strap break.
Types of Truck Wrecks
Truck accidents tend to cause more severe injuries and fatalities because of trucks’ large size and their heavy weight. However, trucks are also higher off the ground than many of the compact and subcompact passenger vehicles.
If a truck stops fast while you tailgate it, you could find yourself under the truck. Most trucks have a bar across the back to prevent smaller vehicles from going under the truck. However, that bar could go through the windshield in some subcompact cars or low riders.
Another dangerous place to be is on the side of a semi-trailer. If the trailer sways, or if another vehicle pushes you toward the truck in a smaller car, it could easily get caught under the trailer. Flatbed trailers are also dangerous. While truck drivers and loaders know to strap down a load, that strap could loosen, or the load could shift. If you are next to the truck, the load could fall onto your vehicle.
A truck making a right turn could easily get its trailer stuck on top of you if you pull up to the right, and the driver doesn’t see you before he or she makes the turn.
Another type of accident that is not common to passenger vehicles is a rollover accident. High winds and speed contribute to rollovers. A truck driver could drive at or below the speed limit, but if the wind hits the truck directly from the side, it could push the truck onto its side. If a truck driver is going too fast for a curve, the weight of the truck and trailer could pull it over. These types of accidents are common on highway on- and off-ramps. Though speed is often a factor, the wind could cause a rollover in a curve, even at slow speeds.
If you are injured in a truck accident, schedule a free consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer who can help you understand the next steps in your journey toward recovering compensation.