One of the most dangerous kind of crashes any driver can be involved in is a collision with a tractor trailer. Tractor trailers are big and unwieldy and exert a huge amount of force on whatever they hit.
Tractor trailers have wide blind spots on all sides – even on the front passenger side. To stay safe driving on the road with Indiana trucks, all drivers need to know where they can and cannot be seen by a truck driver. If you cannot see the trucker in the truck’s side view mirror, the truck driver likely cannot see you either. Knowing what truck drivers see when they are driving can help you drive safely around trucks.
What is a Blind Spot?
A blind spot is something that everyone learns about as a new driver. If you are driving a vehicle, blind spots are the area of the road that you cannot see when looking forward or through the rear-view or side mirrors.
In a smaller vehicle, the most common blind spot is the vehicle’s rear-quarter, which is behind you and to the side. In most cases, drivers can compensate for this blind spot by adjusting the side-view mirrors or turning their head to look behind them on either side.
Blind Spot for Truck Drivers in Indiana
A tractor trailer is about 65 to 75 feet in length. Because of the configuration of a tractor-trailer, there are certain positions surrounding the truck where it is unsafe to linger as a motorist.
Compared to cars, commercial trucks have much longer and wider blind spots, into which multiple vehicles can disappear. A semi’s blind spot extends the width of a full traffic lane on the driver’s side of a tractor trailer and half the length of the trailer.
The blind spot for truck drivers extends two to three lanes in width on the less visible passenger side. The passenger-side blind spot is much larger than the left-side blind spot because of the position of the driver in the truck’s cab. For this reason, if you are going to pass a truck, do so on the left side, where the truck has a much smaller blind spot.
A trucker’s side-view mirrors simply cannot provide a complete view of the full side of the truck.
The height of a truck also means that it may be difficult for the trucker to see a low-riding car and anything that is close in front of the truck.
Most trucks have rear-view mirrors, but they are not very helpful. Vehicles that are directly behind a truck within 30 feet of the truck’s bumper may be invisible to the truck driver. The blind spot directly in back of a truck extends about 30 feet behind the end of the trailer, so avoid staying directly behind a truck.
The truck driver blind spots are not as easy to compensate for, so it is important that other drivers learn what the no-zones are.
Avoid the No-Zones: Truck Blind Spots
The no-zones around a truck are the blind spots. When passing an 18-wheeler, you should do so quickly and not linger in the no-zones for an extended time. Keep in mind that you may be invisible to the truck driver until you can see the truck driver in the truck’s side view mirror.
Starting at the front of the truck, there is a no-zone of about 20 feet. If you are in this zone, particularly if your vehicle is small or low-lying, it will be difficult for the truck driver to see you.
If you are lingering in a blind spot where the truck driver cannot see you, the trucker may decide to change lanes and collide with your vehicle or force your vehicle off the road. Many serious truck accidents are caused by motorists in blind spots.
Other Ways to Stay Safe Sharing the Road with Big Trucks in Indiana
Staying out of a truck’s blind spots is a major way to drive defensively and reduce the risk of a crash. There are some other things to keep in mind as well.
- Give Trucks a Larger Following Distance.Because of a truck’s size and weight, they cannot stop as fast as smaller vehicles. Be cautious when a truck is tailgating you. Pull over and let the truck pass. Trucks take 40% longer to stop than cars do. A truck traveling at 65 mph will take about the distance of 2 football fields to stop completely. Trucks are involved in many rear-end collisions because they are unable to stop before colliding with another vehicle.
- Be Aware of the Turning Radius of a TruckWhen trucks turn, they have a large turning radius—around 55 feet. When you see a truck start to make a turn, make sure you are out of its blind spot. Do not attempt any risky maneuvers to try to get ahead of the truck.
- Avoid Risky BehaviorIt can be frustrating sharing the road with a huge tractor-trailer, especially if you get stuck behind one on a single-lane highway. Do not risk your safety by engaging in aggressive driving behavior to get ahead of the truck. Make sure you pass on the left side, and give yourself adequate time and space to get in front of the truck. The last thing you want to do is to end up in a collision with a vehicle that may weigh 20 or 30 times more than your car.
In 9 out of 10 fatal collisions between cars and commercial trucks, the person killed was in the smaller vehicle, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. These crashes mostly occur in broad daylight and in good driving conditions, with no alcohol involved.
Truck drivers are trained professionals and often skilled at managing their tractor-trailers. But they also drive many hours at a stretch and may be fatigued or on an unfamiliar road. Do not rely on their skill to keep you safe. Focus on being a safe and responsible driver when sharing the road with other vehicles including large trucks.
Knowing the limitations of trucks will help you stay safe and avoid dangerous road situations.
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