Driving a big tractor-trailer truck – what we usually think of as a semi – takes some different driving skills than driving a passenger car. These trucks are much taller, longer, and heavier than most other vehicles on the road. Truck drivers have to take into consideration the differences between their trucks and the rest of the traffic when performing basic driving moves like lane changes.
Truck drivers use their mirrors to monitor where other traffic is around the truck. But because of the length of a truck relative to the length of a car, there are times when a car may be positioned such that a truck driver is unable to see it in the mirror. When a truck driver is unable to see a car and proceeds as though there was no car, accidents happen.
The position of truck mirrors relative to the length of the truck creates blind spots where a driver is not able to see other traffic behind or alongside the truck. To account for this inability to see everything, truck drivers must be especially alert and make sure to completely survey the surrounding traffic before switching lanes.
Other motorists need to be aware when they are driving around big trucks that they may be in a blind spot and try to move into a position where they can be seen by the truck driver.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) describes inadequate surveillance as the situation where a truck driver needs to see around the truck in order to complete a traffic maneuver safely, and either does not look or looks but fails to see. Inadequate surveillance is the cause of about 14% of large truck crashes.
A truck driver’s inadequate surveillance can be due to either of two common reasons that a truck driver might not look or might fail to see nearby motorists.
Semi-trucks often weigh as much as 80,000 pounds – about 20-30 times more than the typical passenger car. A tractor-trailer is about 70 feet long on average. And most trucks are close to 14 feet tall.
There are four large blind spots or ‘no zones’ around a truck where the truck driver will not be able to see a passenger vehicle in the truck’s mirrors.
Despite fairly large gaps in a truck driver’s ability to see what is going on with traffic around their truck, they are responsible for maneuvering safely in traffic.
Even though large trucks are responsible for adequately surveying the roadway before executing a traffic maneuver, passenger cars that are driving near trucks can help avoid accidents by being mindful of a truck driver’s visibility limitations and trying to drive where they can be seen. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if you cannot see the driver’s face in their mirror then they cannot see you.
The FMCSA offers tips for motorists sharing the roadway with large trucks.
A truck driver that does not see a vehicle in a blind spot and maneuvers the truck so that an accident results probably has some liability for causing the accident. The fault for a truck accident is determined based on all of the circumstances leading up to the accident.
Under Louisiana law, fault is apportioned among all persons who contributed to causing an accident. If a person injured in an accident was also partially at fault, the injured party’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault they are found to have.
Commercial trucks often have ‘black boxes’ that can record data helpful in determining the circumstances that occurred just before and during an accident.
Technology is available to help truck drivers better identify other vehicles that may be in their blind spots by alerting them in various ways. Some large trucks are equipped with blind-spot detection technology that monitors the areas where a driver cannot see and displays or sounds a warning when a vehicle is detected.
A study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that crash avoidance technology – such as blind-spot detection – could prevent or lessen the severity of about 28% of all crashes involving large trucks.
Truck accidents often happen because truck drivers engage in unsafe driving maneuvers when they are not able to detect other vehicles in their blind spots. Because of the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks, damages can be severe as passenger cars are at a distinct disadvantage when crashes occur.
At Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC, we know truck accidents. Our New Orleans truck accident attorneys are Board Certified members of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys recognized for our experience and results in handling truck crash cases. By representing clients injured in truck accidents, we help promote greater safety within the trucking industry. Call our office at 504-294-5075 to schedule a free consultation.