Blind Spots/ Swing Turns Truck Accidents
Tractor-trailers have become a regular fixture on our congested highways. During peak hours, simple tasks such as lane-changing or entering the freeway can be treacherous when sharing the road with large commercial vehicles.
Part of this is due to the behemoth size of these vehicles. Semi-trucks in the U.S. can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds and be 70-to-80-feet long and nearly 14 feet tall.
For this reason, truckers have larger blind spots on either side of their rigs than regular passenger vehicles. They are also susceptible to “swing turns,” which is when the truck needs to use two or more traffic lanes to complete a turn.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our experienced Fort Lauderdale truck accident attorneys know the kind of devastation a large truck accident can cause. Just in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports there were nearly 4,000 people killed and another 95,000 injured in crashes involving large trucks. In total, there were 342,000 large trucks involved in some type of collision that year.
That rate has been steady or increasing for years, and it’s disproportionate to the percentage of trucks on the road. Simple fact is: Bigger trucks cause significantly more damage. Of those who die in trucking accidents, more than 70 percent are occupants of other vehicles and 11 percent are non-occupants (i.e., pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.).
It’s not the trucker who is most often in peril: It’s everyone else.
By understanding some of the key causational factors in trucking accidents, motorists can anticipate and avoid dangerous situations wherever possible. For those who have already been involved in a South Florida truck accident, recognizing exactly what happened – and why – will help you to better understand your rights.Blind Spots
A blind spot is a large area around the vehicle where the driver is unable to see, even when mirrors, seats and other equipment are properly adjusted.
Although “blind spot” is the most recognized terminology, it’s probably more accurately referred to as a “blind zone.” The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sometimes refers to it as the “No Zone.” Truckers have to react faster than car drivers in emergency situations due to the weight and size of the vehicle. If a trucker is trying to avoid an impending front-end collision, he may turn into your lane, not even realizing you are there.
In an average passenger vehicle, the blind spot is the size of a swimming pool. It’s a huge area you cannot see. In a big rig, the blind zones are much larger, and they exist on all four sides of the truck.
- Side No Zones. On either side of the truck exist large blind spots. The largest, longest blind spot is on the right, which is why FMCSA advises motorists to never pass a large truck on the right. As a general rule, if you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the side-view mirror, he doesn’t see you. This is why it’s always better to pass on the left.
- Rear No Zones. If you are directly behind the truck, the driver does not see you. If the driver has to stop suddenly, you will have nowhere to go but straight into the truck. From a liability standpoint, you’ll have a tougher time proving right to compensation from the trucker if you rear-end the truck.
- Front No Zones. Because trucks are so high up off the ground, drivers sometimes can’t see objects or even whole vehicles directly in front of them. This is why you must be careful not to cut over too soon after passing a truck. Make sure you can see the whole front of the rig in your rearview before pulling in front of the vehicle. Once you do that, don’t slow down.
While blind zones can make it difficult for truckers to navigate safely, it is their duty to be properly trained and to exercise the utmost care and caution. When they fail and an accident results, the driver, the truck owner, the carrier and others may be responsible to cover your damages.Swing Turns
Tractor-trailers, because of their enormous size, require more room to turn.
Truck drivers need to be educated on safe turns as part of obtaining their commercial license. Unfortunately, accidents still happen. And even when traveling at low speeds, the impact of an 80,000-pound truck carrying tons of cargo can easily be fatal.
Turns can be especially dangerous for drivers making a right turn, as a wider berth is necessary. If the driver swings too far left at the beginning of that turn, other drivers might think the truck is actually turning left. When the trucker instead turns sharply right, the truck then hits another vehicle.
For this reason, truck drivers are supposed to allow passenger vehicles in oncoming lanes to pass and to use the right lane if possible.
If a truck driver fails to safely negotiate swinging turns, he or she may be deemed negligent. In these situations, there are typically multiple parties and insurance companies from whom injured motorists may seek damages.