Addressing the Challenge and Avoiding Accidents
Big trucks make up only 3.6 percent of vehicle traffic in New York City. Nevertheless, they cause around 32 percent of bicycle fatalities and 12 percent of pedestrian fatalities. As Vision Zero aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries in New York City, big trucks remain one of the biggest offenders on the road. Unfortunately, many of those accidents, as well as accidents involving passenger vehicles, occur due to truck drivers’ inability to see vehicles and pedestrians in their blind spots.
The Manhattan Blind Spot Challenge
Trucks driving through Manhattan must pass through narrow streets with little room to maneuver. Truck drivers, whose vehicles naturally take up more room in the lane, must navigate carefully to prevent sideswipe collisions or drifting into another lane.
Unfortunately, big trucks also bring with them large blind spots. While convex mirrors, also known as crossover mirrors, can reduce some of the blind spots faced by big truck drivers, these mirrors do not eliminate them. Blind spots pose a challenge on any road. Manhattan, however, offers unique driving challenges. That’s why truck drivers throughout Manhattan may struggle with their blind spots.
1. Manhattan Has Some of the Heaviest Traffic in the United States.
Drivers in Manhattan know that they need to slow down and expect delays. Only three cities in the United States have worse traffic than New York. That heavy traffic can make it incredibly difficult for truck drivers to navigate safely. At any given time, a truck likely has a vehicle in its blind spot. This can make it very challenging to change lanes or maneuver at all, especially during rush hour or other heavy-traffic times of the day. Since truck drivers often operate on a tight schedule, they often cannot avoid those dangerous hours.
Most of the time, people that live and work in Manhattan choose to use public transportation, rather than getting stuck in that heavy traffic or paying the immense fees that often go along with vehicle use in the city. Unfortunately, cars, trucks, taxis, and buses still fill the streets of Manhattan, leading to heavy traffic and, frequently, long delays.
2. Many Manhattan Drivers Drive Aggressively.
Despite the heavy traffic, or perhaps because of it, many New York drivers engage in highly aggressive driving behaviors. Many New York drivers will swerve through traffic or ignore traffic laws, speed whenever they can, or cut other drivers off to reach their destination a little faster. These behaviors, unfortunately, can substantially increase the danger suffered by regular drivers and truck drivers alike on Manhattan streets. In many cases, those drivers may cut over into a truck’s blind spot even as the truck driver signals that they plan to change lanes. Other drivers may make it difficult for a truck driver to change lanes or make a turn, hovering in the blind spot instead of moving safely out of the way as the truck driver signals their intent.
3. Manhattan Streets Have a Narrow Construction That Does Not Support Big Truck Traffic.
Throughout Manhattan, narrow streets make it difficult for drivers in any type of vehicle to maneuver safely. These narrow streets can prove particularly challenging for truck drivers, who must navigate in wider vehicles. In some cases, truck drivers may need more room than their lanes offer to successfully navigate a turn, or they may drift into the other lane without even realizing it. Unfortunately, those narrow streets also mean that other drivers have no room to get away from them, which means a substantially higher overall accident risk.
Narrow streets may also decrease visibility for truck drivers. A truck’s blind spots run well down its sides. Visibility increases in an arc around the vehicle. The closer a car draws to the truck, the more difficult it can become to see that vehicle. On narrow streets, cars may need to tuck in tighter to the truck, decreasing the likelihood that the truck driver will see them.
4. Manhattan Has a Lot of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Traffic.
With a strong public transportation system and many things within walking distance, many Manhattan residents choose to take to the road on foot or on bicycles, rather than going out in private vehicles. While this strategy offers a great deal of convenience, decreases expense, and can decrease pollution, it also means that big truck drivers must constantly watch out for cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists and pedestrians have a smaller visual profile than passenger vehicles, which can make them more difficult to spot even when they do not hover in a truck’s blind spot. They can also disappear more easily into those blind spots.
Thanks to these considerable challenges, truck drivers navigating through Manhattan may struggle with the increased risk of accidents when cars drift into their blind spots.
Decreasing the Danger of Blind Spot Accidents
As a Manhattan resident, you may not spend a lot of time behind the wheel yourself, since public transportation offers convenient options that can make it faster and easier to get to your destination. You may, however, still spend a great deal of time on the road: walking on the sidewalk, biking, or getting ready to use public transportation. Unfortunately, both pedestrians and bicyclists face substantial danger when encountering a truck’s blind spots.
You can take several steps to help keep yourself safe on the streets of Manhattan and decrease the overall risk of injury, even when sharing the area with big trucks.
1. Know Your Blind Spots.
Some Manhattan residents, especially those that do not have a driver’s license or who have never needed to drive a large vehicle, may not stop to think about the large blind spots big truck drivers must contend with.
To help keep yourself and your loved ones safer on the streets of Manhattan, make sure you have a strong understanding of where big truck blind spots occur.
- In front of the truck. You might assume that big truck drivers have full visibility in front of the truck. Directly at the front, however, most big trucks have a large blind spot that makes it very difficult for their drivers to see. If you walk directly in front of the truck, or ride your bike in front of it, make sure you make eye contact with the driver or wait for them to signal you to cross. If you cannot see the driver, they cannot see you. A distracted driver could put their vehicle in motion without ever recognizing your presence, leading to potentially severe injuries.
- Beside the truck. Down both sides of a big truck, drivers have large blind spots that make it very difficult for truckers to see what happens beside them. Many people know that a driver has a larger blind spot down their right side. Since a driver sits on the left side of the vehicle, they can look out the window and obtain greater visibility down that side of the truck. On the right side, on the other hand, the driver has no extra tools to give them an idea of what takes place in their blind spot, so they may have a much harder time seeing you.
- Behind the truck. Just like the blind spot in front of the truck, the blind spot behind the truck can cause severe injuries. A big truck driver may have no idea what passes behind them. Unlike the driver of a passenger vehicle, they do not have a rearview mirror offering increased visibility, nor do they have the ability to turn around and look out the back of their truck. A driver that intends to back their vehicle must use their side-view mirrors to accomplish the maneuver. If you notice a big truck backing, always get out of the way.
2. Stay Aware.
On Manhattan streets, you cannot afford to let your cell phone, a conversation with a friend, or even your own thoughts distract you. When driving through Manhattan, you may realize that you need to keep your eyes on the road. As a pedestrian, however, you may grow much more casual about the traffic moving around you.
To help keep yourself safe, stay very aware of other vehicles around you, especially big trucks. Do not cross at a crosswalk or move into the road, even temporarily, without taking the time to check traffic around you. Keep in mind that big trucks need more room to slow, turn, or stop than smaller passenger vehicles, which means they may take up more space on the road. Also, remember that some big truck drivers, especially inexperienced ones, may ease the vehicle to the left to get more room to make a right turn. If you notice a big truck driver preparing to make some kind of maneuver, you may want to move out of the way and allow plenty of room for the truck driver to turn.
3. Yield Right of Way when Needed.
Often, as a pedestrian, you may have right of way on the road: for example, if the light changes with you still in the middle of an intersection, a vehicle, including a big truck, cannot simply run you down to get you out of the way. Likewise, however, you may need to wait patiently for big truck drivers to complete turns or get out of the way. If you notice a big truck driver approaching an intersection too fast to stop safely, even if the crosswalk has turned green to allow you to pass, wait for them to complete the maneuver.
You may also want to pay particular attention when a big truck driver misses a maneuver. On Manhattan’s tight streets, big trucks can quickly get stuck. Other times, drivers may jump the curb unintentionally.
When necessary, step to the side or get out of the way so the truck driver can take care of their vehicle. While it may mean missing a crossing signal or needing to wait for another opening in traffic, it can also help keep you safer.
4. Pay Particular Attention When a Truck Backs Up.
Big trucks may need to back up for several reasons. Most often, big truck drivers will park in spaces they can pull through, rather than trying to back a big truck. However, the driver may need to put the truck in reverse to back up to a loading dock, or may need to back up to correct a too-tight turn. If you notice a big truck backing up, especially as a pedestrian, get well out of the way. Anytime you need to pass behind a truck, watch carefully for reverse lights or any signs of movement. When possible, try to cross in another location.
5. Follow All Rules of the Road.
No matter why you use the streets of Manhattan, you must follow the rules of the road. Cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers must all adhere to posted signs, avoid crossing unexpectedly, and wait for traffic signals when needed. Breaking the law can make it more difficult to predict your actions and increase the odds that a truck driver will miss your presence. If you break the law and it causes an accident, your decisions can also leave you liable for that accident.
What Should You Do After a Blind Spot Accident in Manhattan?
If you do suffer injuries in a blind spot accident in Manhattan, whether as a pedestrian, a cyclist, or a driver, make sure you take the right actions to protect yourself. First, always seek medical attention, even if you believe you suffered only minor injuries or did not suffer injuries in the accident. Next, report the accident and wait for the police to arrive, unless you have suffered severe injuries and need immediate medical attention. Finally, contact an experienced Manhattan truck accident lawyer to learn more about your right to compensation following a severe blind spot accident.