Blind spot truck accidents are entirely preventable, yet they occur frequently nonetheless. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the federal agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry—estimates that one out of three crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles occurs in a truck’s blind spots.
A blind spot is an area around a vehicle where a driver has limited or no visibility. The size of a blind spot increases with the size of a vehicle, making truck blind spots larger and more dangerous than other vehicles’ blind spots. Making matters worse, most truck drivers cannot glance over their shoulder to clear a blind spot like someone in a sedan or pickup truck.
The Bronx is home to five industrial business zones with manufacturing, construction, transportation, and other types of companies. Trucks of all sizes are driving in, around, and through the Bronx making deliveries and pickups. Truck drivers and trucking companies like to shift blame to other motorists for blind spot truck accidents, but the onus is on a trucker to clear his blind spot before changing lanes or making a turn.
Negligent truckers who do not clear their blind spots risk causing a dangerous truck accident leading to severe and deadly injuries. A semi-truck weighs up to 80,000 pounds when it’s fully loaded, creating a massive force upon impact when a truck accident occurs.
If you have suffered injuries in a blind spot truck accident in the Bronx, it’s best to consult with a bronx truck accident attorney who can help you take action against the negligent trucker who caused your injuries. Until you have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer, we provide the following guide about blind spot truck accidents.
Below, we take a closer look at the size and location of blind spots on most semi-trucks, negligent trucker behaviors that lead to Bronx blind spot truck accidents, common injuries victims might suffer, and the types of accidents a trucker might cause in the Bronx if he doesn’t clear his blind spots when turning or changing lanes.
Finding Blind Spots on a Tractor-Trailer
Safely sharing the road with semi-trucks requires knowing where to locate their blind spots. Although some slight variation exists, a semi-truck is between 70 and 80 feet long. This includes a standard trailer, which is 53 feet, and the length of the cab.
Here is a complete description of blind spots around the majority of semis you encounter while driving in the Bronx, beginning with the front and proceeding clockwise around the rig:
- Front of the cab. Truck drivers have no visibility immediately in front of their cab, extending forward for about 20 feet.
- Passenger side. A semi-truck’s largest blind spot lies on the passenger side, providing the least amount of visibility around the entire truck. The blind spot begins below the passenger side window, spans almost the entire length of the trailer, and extends outward across two lanes of traffic.
- The rear of the trailer. Truckers have no visibility immediately behind their trailer, extending backward approximately 30 feet.
- Driver’s side. The driver’s side blind spot on a tractor-trailer begins below the window, extending almost to the end of the trailer and diagonally across one lane of traffic.
Drivers who have been trucking for a while understand the importance of clearing blind spots when they change lanes or turn. They simply use their mirrors and speed up or slow down slightly to make sure they aren’t going to cause an accident as they move their truck. However, even the most experienced truckers who prioritize safety can cause blind spot truck accidents if they are distracted, or suffer some kind of impairment.
Causes of Blind Spot Truck Accidents in the Bronx
Aggressive driving and tailgating are two common causes for blind spot truck accidents; however, most occur because of inattentive driving. When inattentive truck drivers change lanes or turn without clearing blind spots, dangerous and fatal accidents happen. Below we offer an overview of some common truck driving situations that promote or lead to inattentive driving and sometimes lead to blind spot truck accidents in the Bronx.
The FMCSA remains painfully aware of the dangers of distracted driving for truck drivers, especially when it concerns electronic devices. They implemented federal cell phone use laws for truck drivers long before individual states jumped on the bandwagon.
Federal law prohibits all commercial drivers’ license (CDL) holders from using a cell phone for texting, emailing, or searching the internet while operating their commercial vehicles. Truck drivers can make phone calls on their cell phones as long as they use a hands-free device; most use headsets. Under the law, a driver can push one button or use voice-activated calling to initiate a phone call.
Many think of cell phones when they think of distracted driving, but truckers face and choose to engage in a wide range of distractions when they are behind the wheel. The general agreement by agencies and organizations that study traffic safety and implement laws is that any activity that takes a trucker’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind away from driving qualifies as a distraction.
Most distracting activities are legal and difficult to regulate, making them even more dangerous.
Examples of truck driver distractions include:
- Adjusting the radio, seats, or climate controls
- Using a CB radio
- Programming a GPS
- Eating snacks and drinking
- Reaching for a dropped item
- Tending to pets (some long-haul drivers travel with dogs)
- Chatting with a driving partner
- Looking for unfamiliar stops on their route
Most people assume that the more experience a truck driver has behind the wheel, the less likely they are to ignore their blind spots and cause an accident. Often, this is true. However, as drivers travel to and from the Bronx, they learn their routes and become more familiar with their duties. Some become complacent. Some truck drivers get so comfortable with their daily routine that they lose sight of safety while operating their rigs.
The law requires pilots to follow a checklist to prepare for flight, take off, operate in the air, and land. Yet, professional truck drivers usually do not need to follow these types of checklists. As they go about their job each day, they gradually cut corners because of complacency.
Thinking of the airline pilot example, it only takes one time for a pilot to forget to put down the landing gear and cause a less than pleasant landing. The same is true of truckers. If drivers forget to clear their blind spots, they can sideswipe another vehicle, causing a dangerous traffic accident. All it takes is once.
Companies simply do not have the time to keep drivers off the road for additional training, and they don’t have enough extra drivers to pick up the slack when drivers attend recurrent training. With a large truck driver shortage, trucking companies already struggle to hire and keep qualified drivers to provide the service they offer, so putting themselves in a position to create more delays is not a popular option. Only companies who understand a continued focus on safety can save them time and money make additional training work.
Poorly trained and inexperienced drivers can be as dangerous as complacent drivers with experience. Operating a tractor-trailer requires laser focus and manual dexterity. Sometimes things move too quickly for inexperienced drivers. The current truck driver shortage also impacts new drivers causing blind sport truck accidents.
Desperate trucking companies hire whoever they can to meet the demands of their business. They assume that because their new hires hold a CDL, they have excellent truck driving skills, so they rush them through any additional training they provide. Some trucking companies are so desperate to get drivers, they skip company training altogether. Drivers who do not get the training they need do not learn the importance of critical safety habits, such as clearing blind spots and putting others who share the road in danger.
Multiple types of daydreaming exist, and some lead to driver inattention. When truckers experience this kind of daydreaming, they risk causing a blind spot truck accident. As people go through life, they experience professional and personal highs and lows. Maybe a trucker fought with his partner, lost a loved one, argued with his employer, welcomed a new baby into his family, or received high praise for a job well done.
Truck drivers have plenty of time to reflect about their day and week as they travel down the road, but sometimes deep thought occurs, and best safety practices go out the window. Safely operating a tractor-trailer means a trucker needs to devote complete attention to driving. If a trucker cannot focus on driving because of the good and/or bad things floating around in his head, they sometimes make mistakes that can lead to a dangerous blind spot truck accident.
Truck drivers work long hours and often drive opposite their body’s natural time clock, leaving them vulnerable to drowsiness. Truckers who regularly do not get the rest they need suffer from chronic fatigue, putting others on the road at risk for accident and injury.
The FMCSA has extensively studied the relationship between driving and sleep. Their research revealed that drivers who stay awake for 18 hours experience the same level of impairment as those who have a 0.08 breath alcohol level, twice the legal limit for truck drivers.
Impaired truckers cannot change lanes or turn safely and sometimes cut off or strike another vehicle, causing a dangerous blind spot truck accident. Drowsy truckers are especially dangerous in the Bronx because of the heavy traffic in the New York City area.
Failure to Clear Blind Spots Causes Specific Truck Accidents
Truck accidents are much like any other motor vehicle accident, but with more damage and more severe injuries because of the size of a truck. However, a tractor-trailer’s design leads to specific types of accidents more often than not when a trucker fails to clear his blind spots and strikes another vehicle. This blog has primarily focused on semi-trucks, but cement trucks, flatbed trucks, garbage trucks, and other heavy trucks face the risk of blind spot accidents.
Examples of specific truck accidents caused by the failure to clear blinds spots include:
Truck drivers who don’t clear their blind spots and strike another vehicle when changing lanes risk running the vehicle off the road. The other vehicle is lucky if they are on a road without a steep embankment.
When deep ravines or medians are present, a blind spot truck accident will likely lead to a dangerous, often fatal, rollover collision. Top-heavy trucks also risk a rollover if the trucker loses control of his truck after striking another vehicle. Once a rollover occurs, other vehicles in the vicinity risk involvement in a secondary accident if they cannot avoid the truck or other vehicle.
A sideswipe collision occurs when a truck and another vehicle are driving parallel to one another. If the trucker fails to check his blind spots while changing lanes on the Cross Bronx Expressway or other multi-lane Bronx freeway, he can run directly into the side of another vehicle. Sideswipe collisions can also lead to a rollover or a multi-car accident.
An underride collision is among the most dangerous and most likely to be fatal of all truck accidents. It’s certainly more likely to lead to death than rollovers and sideswipes. Fortunately, underride collisions are rare, and typically only small cars risk this type of accident.
If a trucker changes lanes without checking blind spots, he could strike a smaller vehicle, causing it to get stuck under the trailer. If the truck driver does not immediately realize what happened and stop, he could drag the vehicle under the trailer for some distance. Most drivers and occupants in passenger vehicles do not survive an underride collision, forcing families to contact an attorney to recover compensation for their loss.