Semi-trucks have many traits that make them more dangerous than other motor vehicles. The large size and weight mean that they can cause significant damage to smaller vehicles in commercial truck accidents. Another safety hazard is their large blind spots, caused by the length of their trailers. These blind spots create dangerous gaps in a truck driver’s visibility. If you need to pass a semi-truck, avoid these blind spots as much as possible.
Where Is the “No Zone?”
Blind spots are areas where a motor vehicle driver’s view of the road is obstructed, typically due to the design of the vehicle. Commercial trucks and tractor-trailers have exceptionally large blind spots due to their long trailers blocking the driver’s field of vision. There are four major blind spots on a semi-truck, collectively referred to as the “No Zone.” Staying out of these four areas when passing an 18-wheeler can help you prevent a truck accident.
Behind the Truck
A semi-truck has a blind spot located directly behind its trailer. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to state that this blind spot extended about 30 feet behind the trailer, it no longer gives a specific distance or measurement. Instead, the FMCSA urges passenger vehicle drivers to simply stay a “safe distance” behind a large truck or bus.
Driving too closely behind a semi-truck could put you at risk of an underride collision. This is a rear-end accident where a smaller car gets wedged or stuck beneath a semi’s trailer. These types of accidents can be catastrophic for the occupants of the smaller car, who can suffer serious head injuries or decapitation. You should never linger behind a large truck, as the truck driver most likely cannot see you and may slam on the brakes.
To the Right and Left Side of the Truck
A semi-truck also has major blind spots on its left and right sides. The height of a truck’s cab means that the truck driver has a limited view of the road to his or her left and right. The right side is particularly obstructed due to the location of the driver’s seat. A good rule of thumb is to remain at least one lane to the left of a truck and two lanes to the right.
In Front of the Truck
The fourth major blind spot is in front of the truck. A truck driver may not be able to see a vehicle that is directly in front of him or her due to the height of the cab. This could lead to a rear-end collision or override accident, where a large truck drives up and over a smaller car. The FMCSA recommends staying at least the length of two football fields in front of a large truck, as this is the average distance these trucks need to stop.
How to Safely Avoid a Semi-Truck’s Blind Spots
Passing a semi-truck as soon as possible can help you stay out of harm’s way. When passing, you need to be alert to the four blind spots. Pass through them as quickly as is safely possible. If you find yourself in a large truck’s blind spots, speed up, slow down or move over as soon as possible to get out of them.
If you are not sure whether a truck driver can see you, look at the truck’s side mirrors. If you cannot see the truck driver’s face in the mirror, he or she most likely cannot see you. You should always assume that a truck driver does not see you and aim to get out of a blind spot as quickly as you can.
Pass a semi-truck by moving into the left lane when it is safe to do so. Build speed to pass the truck without exceeding the speed limit. Before you get in front of the truck, make sure the truck is visible in your rearview mirror and leave extra space. Use your turn signal before switching lanes. Do not get in front of a truck and slam on your brakes; large trucks cannot stop as quickly as smaller cars.
If you get into an accident with a semi-truck because of a blind spot, contact a Kansas City accident attorney for assistance with the insurance claims process.