Midwestern highways are traveled by thousands of freight-bearing and commercial vehicles each day as they transport goods and individuals from hub states across the country. Their size and weight put commercial vehicles like tractor trailers and busses at increased risk for serious accidents. An estimated 840,000 tractor trailer or large commercial vehicle accidents each year in the United States involve a driver’s inability or failure to check his or her blind spots according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Three hundred fatalities can be tied to these types of accidents annually as well.
Tractor trailers and other oversized vehicles are especially susceptible to blind spot accidents due to their sheer size, which causes drivers limited ability to see the traffic around them. A blind spot is an area that a driver can’t visualize using either their mirrors or their eyes while driving. The only option for checking a blind spot visually is to turn the head to look over a shoulder, forcing the driver to take his or her attention from the road ahead.
A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh up to 40 tons, which is 20 to 30 times the size of an average passenger vehicle on the road today. Tractor trailers are also higher off the ground with a high center of gravity, making them more likely to be involved in rollover accidents as well as blind spot collisions.
Blind spot accidents occur when one or more drivers attempts to merge, pass, or cut in front of another vehicle, failing to observe the vehicle in their blind spot and causing them to collide or forcing them off of the road. The larger a motor vehicle is, as is the case with commercial trucks and busses, the larger its blind spot will be, and the more potential there is for damage in the case of an accident. This is especially true if the larger vehicle crashes into a significantly smaller vehicle. Blind spot crashes have the potential to be particularly deadly and cause grave injuries.
If you’ve been involved in a blind spot accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Berry Law. They can help you determine who is at fault and calculate damages that you may be owed for injuries sustained during the crash.
Blind Spot Locations in Commercial Vehicles
Due to the higher seating position of a tractor trailer driver and the length and size of commercial vehicles, large blind spots can still occur even when a driver has properly adjusted his or her mirrors. A general rule when it comes to navigating around these vehicles is that if another driver can’t see a truck’s mirrors or visualize the driver in the mirrors, the commercial driver likely can’t see the smaller vehicle either.
Blind spot accidents frequently result in sideswipe or rear end collisions, as well as rollover accidents. Drivers risk being run off the road or into other vehicles to avoid an accident, and in some cases, large trucks have run over smaller vehicles that were sitting in their blind spot.
Tractor trailers and other large commercial vehicles have wide zones of blind spots that extend to every side of the truck or bus. Because drivers are seated so high, they are typically unable to see anything within 20 feet of the front of the vehicle they’re driving. If a tractor trailer is driving directly behind a smaller vehicle or to the rear in an adjacent lane, chances are likely that the driver will be unable to visualize that vehicle until it speeds up out of the truck’s blind zone.
Likewise, the zone 30 feet behind a tractor trailer is difficult for a commercial driver to visualize. Keeping a minimum 200 feet of space between the back of a large truck and other vehicles is recommended to avoid riding in the driver’s blind spot. Larger vehicles require longer following distances so that the driver can see vehicles in the lane ahead of or behind them.
The area between a commercial driver’s door and the back of the vehicle on each side is part of a driver’s blind zone. The right side of a large vehicle is particularly susceptible to blind spot accidents because the blind spot can extend two to three lanes to the right of the vehicle. Other drivers should avoid passing a large commercial vehicle on the right for this reason. These vehicles also require a large amount of space when making right turns.
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How to Avoid a Blind Spot Accident
Whenever possible, try to avoid driving in blind spots where commercial vehicle drivers can’t easily see smaller vehicles. When it’s necessary to pass a tractor trailer, do so as safely as possible on the left of the vehicle. Try to avoid passing on the right where the blind zone is particularly large.
Be cautious about cutting too closely in front of a large truck or bus by driving into the blind zone at the front of the vehicle. Stay back at least 200 feet or more when driving behind a tractor trailer and anticipate wide right turns from large commercial vehicles.
Every driver, regardless of vehicle size, should always check his or her blind spots before proceeding to merge, change lanes, or pass. It’s a good idea to use caution anytime a large commercial vehicle is driving nearby, but blind spot accidents are particularly likely to occur when a truck is making a turn, backing up or changing lanes.
Truck drivers themselves should be especially aware of these hazards and take precautions to avoid accidents involving other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Large commercial vehicles typically don’t have traditional rearview mirrors. Instead, drivers are responsible for checking their side mirrors and using any other technology installed in the vehicle to help them detect hazards.
They are also trained to be alert to the amount of traffic around them and proceed with caution before changing lanes to ensure the safety of other drivers. While other drivers on the road should certainly do their part to keep themselves safe and demonstrate awareness of the hazards of large commercial vehicles’ blind spots, it is not their sole responsibility to prevent large truck blind spot accidents.
Sometimes insurance companies will suggest that the driver of a smaller vehicle is at fault for an accident because he or she failed to speed up or slow down to get out of a truck driver’s blind spot. Drivers have the right to occupy the lane in which they are driving, and truck drivers are responsible for checking their blind spots before merging, passing, or changing lanes.
Because of their size, even small mistakes or moments of negligence in a large commercial vehicle can result in serious injury or death. Many blind spot crashes are the result of a driver’s lack of attention to safety, recklessness, or carelessness. Some common reasons for commercial vehicle blind spot accidents include:
- Fatigued or drowsy driving
- Distracted driving
- Haste to meet deadlines
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure to properly adjust mirrors or use equipment
- Failure to signal intentions
Commercial drivers and trucking companies can be held liable for blind spot accidents caused by a driver’s negligence. All drivers on the road assume a duty of care to other motorists. In cases where a truck driver’s habits or decisions result in an accident, they have breached that duty of care.
Police reports, accident reconstruction, and eye witness accounts can uncover negligence and prove fault, which is necessary for recovering damages in a blind spot collision. Motorists involved in an accident should seek medical treatment immediately to determine the extent of their injuries. Although medical intervention can be costly and a driver may be worried about accumulating medical debt, having a record of injuries and treatment is important for determining damages and seeking future compensation.
While compensation can’t restore physical health, it can ease the financial burden on a victim and his or her family. The cost of medical bills and necessary treatments like chiropractors, physical therapists and other rehabilitation services can add quickly add up.
Damage to property, pain and suffering, lost wages and other expenses may also be recovered in a blind spot accident personal injury case. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to proceed following an accident so that you can focus on your health. Before hiring a personal injury attorney, consider the following:
- Look for an attorney who has a background in personal injury law and a record of successful litigation in that area.
- Firms that solicit business from victims immediately after an accident occurs may be dubbed “ambulance chasers.” Soliciting business from would-be clients when they are most vulnerable is an unethical practice, and one a reputable firm will avoid.
- Schedule a consultation with any potential personal injury attorney prior to hiring him or her.
- Be sure to discuss fees up front. Many personal injury attorneys work for a percentage of the verdict settlement. It’s important to understand the fee agreement before hiring an attorney.