A January article at Trucks.com highlighted the statistical fact that trucking is one of the deadliest occupations. Among the ideas brought forth trying to reduce the number of accidents that contribute to that statistic is to implement blind spot alert technologies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest numbers from 2019 there were 843 trucker fatalities, meaning that one of every seven on-the-job deaths occur in heavy-duty trucking.
At 26.8 trucker deaths per 100,000, that number is nearly an order of magnitude higher than the 3.5 deaths per 100,000 for all workers across the nation.
Trucks.com interviewed the CEO of Maverick USA, of Little Rock, Arkansas, who is also president of The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security. He told Trucks.com, “Without a doubt, we recognize that there are too many avoidable injuries and fatalities in the industry. We support the idea to have zero fatalities, and it is a realistic goal.”
Besides speaking about improving road infrastructure and reducing traffic hazards as a way to lower the fatality numbers, Williams said that such driver assistance technologies as forward collision alerts, automatic emergency braking should be employed.
But he added that there's another technology, blind-spot alert systems, that is getting some attention lately, not only from the trucking industry, but also from the other side of the collision equation, attorney's for truck-car accident victims.
Trucker lawsuit attorneys speak out about blind spot accidents
It behooves truck drivers and the carriers that employ them to pay attention to what attorneys for victims of accidents with trucks have to say about the "dangerous element to all this commercial trucking traffic, namely blind spots."
Failure of a truck driver to understand a passenger car driver's awareness of his limited visibility could result in an accident and a massive lawsuit payout.
Attorneys representing accident victims know full well that the law allows those who are injured in traffic crashes to hold carriers and truck drivers liable in crashes involving a blind spot circumstance.
One such law firm specializing in representing victims of accidents involving trucks is Ellis Law of New Jersey, which claims on its website, "If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, the Freehold truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law have considerable experience resolving complex personal injury claims and achieving justice for injured clients. We advocate for you and will not back down when dealing with formidable truck fleets and their insurance companies."
Telling passenger car drivers about a truck's no-zones
In a January blog on its website, the writer for Ellis Law writes for the passenger car victims' point of view, but offers sensible tips for drivers to help them avoid blind spot accidents.
They start out by stating that blind spots account for nearly 400,000 truck accidents of some variety each year across the United States, with more than 150,000 of those accidents resulting in fatalities.
Pointing out the obvious, they state that because of the immense size of those trucks there will be blind spots where, if a car is in one of these zones, it could increase the chance for an accident.
Truckers know well where these areas are, but the law firm wants passenger car drivers to be aware where the "no-zones" are when driving near a big rig truck.
According to the Ellis Law blog, these no-zones are:
In front of the truck: Truckers are positioned in cabs that are elevated well above the ground. That creates a space directly in front of them, which is blocked by the truck’s hood. This no-zone can be as large as 20 feet. A vehicle that cuts directly in front of the truck may not be visible and is at risk for a tragic collision.
To the rear of the truck: Because the distance from the truck driver’s cab to any vehicle following them is so great, a significant blind spot exists behind the back of the truck. Also, the truck driver’s rearview mirror is not especially effective for viewing cars traveling directly behind the truck. To ensure smaller vehicles can be seen in a trucker’s side mirrors, drivers should try to stay at least 20 car lengths, or four seconds, behind them.
On both sides of the truck: Blind spots on both sides of a large commercial truck are the most dangerous areas in which other vehicles can travel. To the right of the truck, the no-zone can run the entire length of the trailer and extend across three additional lanes. Therefore, whenever possible, other motorists should always try to pass trucks on the left side.
Attorneys acknowledge that commercial truck drivers undergo extensive training, and employ several different kinds of equipment and technologies to mitigate the blind spot problem, such as: A blind spot detection system on the truck driver's side mirror, strategically located additional small mirrors, front and rear-facing cameras, and lane assist and department systems.
But despite these mitigating factors, accidents do happen. Ellis Law says that truckers' insurance companies in defense of the truck driver or carrier will claim that the passenger car drivers passed unsafely, or the car driver was following too closely, or the car driver was driving too fast or too slow for the truck driver to see them.
Ellis Law says that, "Many truck accidents involving collisions with smaller vehicles in a blind spot will result in serious injuries. Insurance adjusters for the truck owner or trucking company often attempt to skew the facts of a crash claim to save money."
They warn that any car driver who accepts even partial responsibility for the blind-spot accident could impact the outcome of the claim.
So, the victims' attorney will try to argue four separate elements:
Duty: The defendant, the truck driver in this case, owed a legal duty to the plaintiff to operate the truck safely
Breach of duty: The defendant breached that duty by failing to detect and avoid the other vehicle
Causation: The defendant’s actions, or failure to act, directly caused the blind spot accident and resulting injury
Damages: The plaintiff suffered losses because of the defendant’s actions, or failure to act.
What does Ellis Law say a car driver must do to avoid the accident in the first place?
Ellis Law says the simplest way to avoid a blind-spot accident is for the driver to know if he or she is in the trucker's no-zone. "If a driver cannot see a truck driver’s face in their side mirror, it is likely the truck driver cannot see them either," the blog writer states.
Drivers of passenger vehicles should never assume the truck driver can see them, and should always err on the side of caution.
Additional tips include:
Avoid lingering in a truck’s blind spot
Never tailgate a tractor-trailer, or any vehicle for that matter
Before passing a truck, the motorist should look for the truck driver’s face in the side mirror to ensure the trucker can see them
Safe passing means signaling early and passing quickly on the left, where the blind spot is shorter
Drivers should stay alert for a truck’s turn signals and be mindful to allow plenty of space, as trucks make wide, sweeping turns.
In short, drivers in passenger vehicles should never assume a nearby truck driver can see them. Erring on the side of caution is always a good idea.
The blog concluded by stating that although driving around these large tractor-trailer rigs "can be quite disconcerting, especially after learning more about how limited the driver’s visibility can be."
And the blog ended with this warning that should be heeded by all truck drivers: "Ultimately, truck drivers must ensure no one is in their path as they travel along the highway."
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