Large blind spots on commercial trucks are a known safety issue that automakers have attempted to address through technology even as truck driving instructors and government officials have worked to mitigate the issue through driver training.
For example, doctors removed a 23-year-old man from life support four days after a dump truck allegedly struck him while riding his motorcycle. The morning accident occurred when the driver of the dump truck attempted to make a left turn and allegedly struck the motorcyclist.
The truck driver, allegedly unaware that he had hit the motorcyclist, completed his turn and continued traveling down the road until a Good Samaritan—who witnessed the accident—stopped him and informed him that he was in a crash. He returned to the scene of the accident about 10 minutes later and charges against him were pending at the time of the published report.
It was the second accident involving a commercial truck in Orlando in one week’s time, with the first accident taking the life of a 10-year-old boy. The truck driver in that accident also left the scene. Following the second accident, police wondered if maybe the driver of the first accident was also unaware that they were in a crash.
At the time of the second accident, a lieutenant with the Florida Highway Patrol noted that, while trucks do have significant blind spots that make it hard for drivers to see other motorists or pedestrians, they are trained to overcome that issue and are held to a higher standard than other drivers.
If you were injured in an accident that was caused by a truck driver who didn’t even see you, you can pursue compensation for your injuries through a personal injury claim. An experienced Orlando truck accident attorney can help you understand this process.
What Is a Blind Spot?
Blind spots are areas along the sides of the vehicle in which the driver cannot see obstacles in his or her rear or side view mirrors and must look over his or her shoulder to detect an obstacle in these areas. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot will likely be. For commercial vehicles, including dump trucks and tractor-trailers, this extensive blind spot spans 20 feet in front of the vehicle, 30 feet behind the truck, one travel lane alongside the left side of the vehicle, and two travel lanes alongside the right side of the vehicle. These areas are known as no zones.
However, in spite of having the largest blind spots of all vehicles, commercial truck drivers cannot eliminate the risk of a blind spot accident by simply glancing over their shoulders—if they did so, likely all that they would see is the back of the cab due to the massive size of the truck and the positioning of the driver inside of it.
How does another motorist know if he or she is traveling in a truck’s blind spot? A general rule of thumb is that, if you can see the driver’s reflection in his or her side mirror, he or she likely can’t see you either.
How Blind Spot Accidents Occur
Blind spots are just one of a myriad of problems in the construction of commercial trucks, along with a longer distance required to come to a safe stop and they make wide turns. Often, when accidents occur, more than one of these issues is involved. Approximately 20 percent of accidents involving commercial trucks are considered mirror-relevant crashes, meaning that the truck driver would have to use his or her mirrors or a blind spot camera system to maneuver safely.
Mirror-relevant crashes occur because:
- When the truck is changing lanes: When merging to another lane either to the left or to the right, failure to detect a vehicle in the blind spot on the side of the merge can result in the truck striking that vehicle.
- When the truck is making a right turn: The driver must be certain that there is no one in an adjacent lane. It is also important for drivers to ensure that there is not a pedestrian or bicyclist in the crosswalk of the roadway that is being turned onto.
- When the truck is making a left turn: Left turn accidents require the driver to overcome a blind spot to detect other drivers turning in adjacent lanes as well as drivers who may be traveling in the blind spot behind the truck.
- Backing up: Because trucks have a blind spot in the rear of the trailer, the driver can’t see other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists who may be behind it. Without the use of backup technology or careful surveillance of the area before backing, the driver could strike you during this maneuver.
- Accelerating after stopping at an intersection: The blind spot in the front of the vehicle places pedestrians and small vehicles at risk of the truck striking them as it begins moving after stopping at a red light or stop sign.
The most common type of mirror-relevant crash involves backing up, followed by right turns where a vehicle is in an adjacent lane or a pedestrian is crossing the travel lane that the truck is entering.
Other factors that may lead to a blind spot accident involving a commercial truck include:
- Driver distraction or fatigue: Drivers travel for many hours at a time and are prone to fatigue and distraction, both of which can reduce the attention that the driver pays to the task of driving safely. Because of this, the driver may not see a vehicle entering his or her blind spot or may forget that he or she saw a vehicle enter the blind spot.
- Alcohol or drug impairment: While truck drivers are required to meet state and federal regulations including regular drug and alcohol testing, many drivers still take the risk of drinking or taking medication before driving. Alcohol and medication create attention deficits in regards to roadway signs and hazards as well as the inability to maintain one’s lane of travel or to multi-task, making the already difficult task of maneuvering a large truck even more dangerous.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway: Most drivers have become lost before and have experienced the subsequent panic that can cause the driver to miss certain details of the roadway while trying to find his or her way back to the planned route. When truck drivers are focused on trying to get back on their planned route, they may miss details such as a vehicle following too closely behind them, cutting in front of them, or lingering alongside them in the adjacent travel lane.
- Inclement weather: Bad weather may reduce a truck driver’s visibility, adding an additional hazard in the detection of vehicles entering or exiting the blind spot.
How Do Truckers Avoid Blind Spot Accidents?
As explained by Truckers Report, truck drivers have few options when they discover that there is a vehicle in one of the truck’s four no zones, including:
- Slowing down in hopes that the other motorist passes them.
- Adding additional mirrors that help to reduce the major blind spots located along each side of the vehicle. Mirrors mounted on the top left and right side of the hood can narrow the size of the side blind spots, while mounting an additional folding side mirror on the left side can help the driver to see vehicles that may be passing in the right lane or lingering alongside the truck.
- The use of technological devices that have sensors, fish-eye view cameras, and audible tones that alert the driver of approaching traffic from the back or either side of the vehicle or when a motorist has cut into the travel lane in front of them. One form of technology that is having success in preventing blind spot truck accidents is side view assist technology. According to statistics provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are about 97,000 large truck crashes each year that involve lane changes. Side view assist technologies could prevent around 39,000 of these crashes each year, including 2,000 that result in injury and 79 that involve fatalities. Some of these technologies involve short range radar that detects a moving vehicle in the truck’s blind spot and alerts the driver via a visual signal.
Tips for Other Travelers to Avoid a Blind Spot Accident
While the onus of avoiding a blind spot collision is on the driver of the vehicle with the blind spot, other drivers and even pedestrians can avoid this type of crash by following these tips:
- Don’t linger in the truck’s blind spot. Either slow down or move past the vehicle, being careful to allow enough space before merging back into the travel lane with the truck. A trick to ensure that you have enough space to re-enter the travel lane is to look in your rear view mirror. If you can see the entire front of the truck’s cab in the mirror, then you are safe to merge. Always use your turn signal properly when passing to alert the truck driver and other motorists of your intentions.
- As a pedestrian or bicyclist, attempt eye contact with the driver of a big truck before crossing in front of it. This will help the truck driver see you.
- When driving behind a large truck, pay attention to the brake lights and turn signals and slow accordingly. Avoid turning in an adjacent lane alongside a truck, as trucks require wide turns that could cause the driver to encroach on your lane.
- Never tailgate a truck. In addition to the driver’s inability to see you due to his or her rear blind spot, you also run the risk of rear-ending the truck—an event that often results in a deadly underride. An underride occurs when a small vehicle gets trapped in the ground clearance beneath the truck.
- Remember that commercial trucks require a larger distance to come to a safe stop. Use care when judging a gap in traffic and merging in front of the truck.
- If a truck puts on its blinkers and begins to merge into your lane, honk your horn to alert the driver that you are there.
If You Were Injured…
Blind spot truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and damage to the spinal cord. These types of injuries can result in life-altering disabilities and complications that require frequent medical interventions. If you have suffered a serious injury due to a blind spot truck accident, Florida law allows you to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver through a personal injury lawsuit.
This is a lawsuit that is filed in civil court for you to recover damages such as:
- Current and estimated future medical expenses, including emergency treatment both at the scene of the accident and at the emergency department, transport to the hospital by ambulance or air, physician’s services, surgical services, prescription medication, hospitalization, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. You can also seek to recover the cost of wheelchairs, crutches, prostheses, and home modifications needed to accommodate the disability such as door widening, lowered countertops, and roll-in showers.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work or required to miss work to attend doctor’s appointments.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in permanent disability.
- The cost of repairing or replacing your car.
- The physical and emotional impacts of your accident, including pain and suffering, mental distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
If you sustained injuries in a truck blind spot accident, consider arranging a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer. An experienced Orlando truck accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options.