The overall structure of a semi-truck or 18-wheeler is very efficient. These vehicles are capable of attaching to a trailer in a matter of moments and hauling huge amounts of weight on the same roads used by passenger vehicles. Although the structure of a semi-truck makes it very efficient, the design elements that make commercial trucks so useful for companies also make them inherently dangerous.
Specifically, motorists who get too close to commercial trucks may end up in a blind spot, which can result in very serious consequences. Motorists in smaller vehicles therefore need to know where those blind spots are and avoid them if they want to minimize the chance of being involved in a major truck accident.
Where are an 18-wheeler’s blind spots?
Some commercial trucks have extra mirrors added to the side of the cab to help the driver better see around the vehicle. Even with those extra mirrors, a commercial driver will have a hard time spotting anyone in the blind spots around the vehicle’s trailer.
Pedestrians, bicycles and other vehicles that are close to the trailer of a semi-truck might not be visible to the driver controlling the vehicle. Generally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends avoiding the lane directly to the left of a truck’s trailer and the two lanes to the right of the trailer on a multi-lane highway.
Additionally, motorists need to give more space when following directly behind a semi-truck, as its driver likely cannot see vehicles and other objects behind the trailer. Many safety experts recommend maintaining twice the usual distance between the back of a commercial truck and the front of a passenger vehicle as compared to the distance maintained when following other passenger vehicles in traffic.
What is the risk of getting too close?
The obvious safety issue that arises from being in a commercial truck’s blind spots is that even a skilled and attentive commercial driver won’t be able to spot someone in those areas. They might then turn, stop or merge into another lane of traffic in a manner that will put the smaller vehicle at risk of a crash. Especially in scenarios that involve merging into the next lane, the car accident that could occur when one vehicle is in a commercial truck’s blind spot has the potential to be catastrophic. Side underride collisions can lead to the death of vehicle occupants and the total destruction of a smaller vehicle.
In heavy traffic, motorists may want to slow down or even choose a different route to avoid driving in close proximity to trucks. Learning more about the choices that may increase someone’s personal risk of a catastrophic collision can help people prioritize personal safety while out on the road.