Most drivers will have encountered that moment on the highway when they feel stuck behind a transport truck and feel the urge to pass them by. But did you know you could be putting yourself at risk by passing a truck in its blind spots or what is known as its “no zone” areas?
What is a blind spot in driving and what does it mean? Blind spots or no zones are the dangerous areas around trucks and other large vehicles where crashes are more likely to occur. Semi-truck no zones include areas where your car can’t be seen by the truck or bus driver. Many drivers assume that because a tractor-trailer truck is higher off the ground and has large mirrors that they can see all around them, but it’s not true. If you are driving next to a truck and need to pass, be sure to do it safely by looking all around you, using your own mirrors and pulling ahead promptly to give the truck driver plenty of space.
Trucks Have Less Visibility
A survey from AAA found that 61 percent of U.S. adults feel less safe passing large commercial trucks than going past passenger cars. The top three reasons were:
- Trucks’ large size and length (28 percent);
- Trucks have greater blind spots/less visibility (18 percent);
- Trucks can drift or swerve out of their lane (14 percent).
While most people probably think big truck accidents happen more frequently on busy highways where all traffic is going at a higher speed, the reality is that in 2015, 60 percent of crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads, and only 25 percent happened on interstate highways, with 35 percent of accidents taking place at night.
The general rule is if you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the side-view mirror, that means they can’t see you. When approaching a truck to pass, assess all the risks around you. Give some thought to what the truck driver may be hauling — transport trucks can be carrying hazardous material such as gasoline, oil, or other chemicals. If you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, it’s a good bet you are in a blind spot. If that is the case, you should move out of that no zone as soon as you can.
How many blind spots do trucks have?
While all vehicles can have a blind spot, semi-trucks have four significant blind spots:
- Left side, under the truck cab mirror;
- Right side, under the cab mirror and extending out;
- In front of the truck cab, at least 20 feet; and
- Behind the trailer, at least 30 feet.
It’s advised to stay away from the sides of a truck, especially the right side, which is even less visible to the transport truck driver, and as a result, all that more dangerous for passenger vehicles to be driving in. Use caution and pass as quickly as speed limits permit. Always remember to signal as early as possible and let the driver see you before you pass.
To protect yourself while on highways and around trucks, especially busy freeways, learn how to pass a truck and become aware of the signals truck drivers provide indicating that they may be planning to change lanes or slow down. Watch for signal and brake lights and don’t try to pass a truck without first assessing if you have enough space to do so safely. Trucks cannot stop as quickly as passenger vehicles and can cause considerably more damage in an accident.
When on the highway stay alert to your surroundings and make note of the vehicles you are sharing the road with as you are driving. Be patient and ask yourself: Where do trucks have blind spots?
Pack Your Patience
The best approach on the road is to be patient, wait for a good time to pass large vehicles and do so at a reasonable speed, making sure to signal and watch your own mirrors to find the right time to pull up and in front of the truck or bus.
It’s also wise to avoid tailgating a truck trailer as this is one way to get into their absolute blind spot. If you are behind a truck and approaching a hill where the driver may be planning to stop. Leave plenty of room as trucks may roll back as the driver takes their foot off the brakes.
You should also avoid speeding up if a truck begins to pass you. Your reaction should be to slow down and give the truck plenty of room to pass. Always allow lots of space for a truck that is signaling that it is going to change lanes.
Crashes involving large transport vehicles can result in catastrophic, life-altering injuries with long-term health and financial implications. Educating yourself about how to stay safe when sharing the road with large vehicles can go a long way to avoiding unnecessary accidents.