Stay Out of a Truck's Blind Spots
Driving alongside tractor-trailer trucks is a part of everyday travel for most of us. However, many motorists don't realize that big trucks have blind spots and erroneously assume that by being higher up, the truck driver must be able to see them.And many drivers, especially newer ones, don't know where a trucker's blind spots are, which can lead to dangerous incidents in which the passenger car bears the brunt of the outcome. This article will tell you how to stay out of a truck's blind spots.
Note: This article is based originally on right-hand traffic. Where it is not already clarified within the article, assume that you'll need to adopt the opposite side if applying these instructions to a left-hand traffic system.
- Know where all the semi-truck's blind spots are. A blind spot is where the driver loses sight of other vehicles. Understanding the location and scope of each blind spot or "no zone" can help you avoid them. The image details the no-zones.
- There is a blind spot directly behind the truck. There is a "no zone" on each side of the truck that can span for several lanes.
- There is a blind spot in front of the truck that encompasses the lane the truck is in and one lane to the right.
- There is a blind spot beside the truck's right door (left door in countries that drive on the left side).
- Be patient. When sharing the road with trucks, it's important to drive carefully and to realize that trucks cannot maneuver quickly in an emergency situation. Being patient is as important as knowing where the truck's blind spots are.
- Do not follow a truck too closely. By staying close behind a truck (also known as "tailgating"), you'll be in the truck's rear blind spot, and if the driver isn't aware of this and makes a sudden stop or maneuver, you're at risk of rear-ending into the truck. The best distance is about 20 to 25 car lengths behind a truck. This is also known as maintaining a four second following distance. In poor weather conditions, this gap should be even longer.
- It is also dangerous to pass from a position too close behind a truck as you cannot see the traffic ahead clearly.
- Trucks traveling at high speeds create a lot of wind pressure, which is another reason for not staying too close.
- At nighttime, when following a truck keep your headlights on low beam because the truck's side mirrors can reflect the light back into the car driver's eyes.
- Keep both (left and right) truck mirrors in your sights as much as possible when traveling behind a truck. If you can see the driver's face in his mirrors, then it's likely that he can see you. The moment that you cannot see the driver's face in the truck's side mirrors, he can't see you any longer.
- If you lose sight of even one of the mirrors, the truck driver can no longer see your vehicle.
- Give plenty of space when driving in front of a truck. Ensure that there is ample room when you change lanes in front of a truck.
- Pass or overtake a truck with care. Do not pass or overtake a truck on the right hand side (left hand side in countries that keep to the left); this is because a truck's blind spot on the right runs down the length of the trailer and extends out three lanes!
- Signal your intention to pass early on and clearly. Be certain that the passing lane is clear before pulling out - bear in mind that it takes 25 seconds to pass a large truck on the open road.
- Pass quickly to stay out of the truck's side "no zones" area. Do not linger beside a truck but pass quickly. If you cannot pass a truck quickly, it's best to fall back behind the truck so you can be seen again.
- Keep in mind that you may be subjected to turbulence when pulling out from behind the truck and when passing back in front of it. This impacts small cars and motorcyclists the most.
- If passing or Overtake Another Vehicle on the crest of a hill, remember that trucks speed up on the downhill.
- Avoid cutting in too soon after passing. Truckers sit high and the hood of the cab hides part of the road in front of them.
You should be able to see the entire front of the truck (or both of its headlights) in your inside rear-view mirror before you pull back in front of a truck. A truck requires twice the amount of time and space to stop as does a car.
- Do not decelerate immediately after pulling in front of a truck after passing. You may still be in the driver's blind spot. Even if you are seen, given that it takes longer for a truck to slow down or stop, the driver may not be able to stop in time. Instead, keep traveling fast to create a distance of about 10 car spaces between you and the truck.
- Do not drive along a truck's right-hand side when the truck is turning right. A truck needs a wide berth in order to clear the turn, requiring additional lanes. When turning, the driver cannot see any vehicles on his right. This is also important for motorcyclists and bicyclists; do not attempt to slip past on the right while a truck is turning or is stopped at an intersection.
- Give more room than usual if you're behind a truck that's turning right. The driver has to swing wide to the left and his trailer will block the vision of any cars behind him.
- Pay attention to a truck's brake lights and turn signals. These lights may be the only indication that a truck cannot see you. If a truck is about to turn or change lanes, be patient and wait your turn to do whatever it is you were intending.
- Blow your horn if you see the turn signal on your side come on or if you notice a truck start moving into your lane. You are in a driver's blind spot if you notice this.
- It is your only warning to a trucker that you're in the place he or she is trying to go. Hit your horn several times if necessary.
- Attempt to move over a lane or onto the shoulder while blowing your horn. This might prevent your car from being hit if the driver still doesn't notice you.
- This advice also applies to other large vehicles such as buses.
- Always signal well in advance of turning or stopping; this gives trucks plenty of time to know what you're about to do so that they can slow down or change their pace.
- When a truck is overtaking you, ease back on your car's speed. Doing so will ensure the truck gets past you faster, meaning you'll be out of its blind spot sooner.
- When you are overtaking a truck, press on your gas pedal to increase speed above what your cruise control is set at to minimize your time in the truck's blind spot. Ensure the higher speed is still a safe speed.
- If you can see the truck driver in the trucks mirror then the truck driver can see you. Be observant, watch for the driver to "see" your vehicle.
- When passing a truck during rain or snow, place your wiper blades on high to ensure that your visibility is not impeded at any stage.
- If you're driving a truck, get out and check behind your truck before reversing it. If you have safety cones to denote a keep-out area that you're reversing into, make use of them.
- Never walk behind or drive around a truck that is reversing or preparing to reverse. The driver's blind spot may cause the truck to hit you unknowingly.
- Never cut in front of a truck that is slowing down to stop. The truck will not be able to stop any faster than it is already doing.
- If you pass a stationary truck, reduce your speed just in case the driver steps out onto the road; he may not be able to see you.
- Set Rear‐View Mirrors to Eliminate Blind Spots
- Find Your Blind Spot
- Get Rid of Your Blind Spot
- Drive a Car Safely
- Drive Safely in the Rain
- Be a Safe Elderly Driver
Sources and Citations
- IINC, Truck Blind Spots and Stopping Distance Focus of Highway Safety Demonstration, http://www.iinc.org/articles/362/1/Truck-Blind-Spots-and-Stopping-Distance-Focus-of-Highway-Safety-Demonstration/Page1.html – research source
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Blind Spots, http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/truck/blindspots.htm
- Victoria Police, Trucks and heavy vehicle safety, http://www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?document_id=9629
- IINC, Truck Blind Spots and Stopping Distance Focus of Highway Safety Demonstration, http://www.iinc.org/articles/362/1/Truck-Blind-Spots-and-Stopping-Distance-Focus-of-Highway-Safety-Demonstration/Page1.html
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Following, http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/truck/following.htm
- NZ Transport Agency, Sharing the road safely with trucks, http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/factsheets/34/sharing-with-trucks.html
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Passing, http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/truck/passing.htm
- Government of Saskatchewan, No Zone, http://www.highways.gov.sk.ca/nozone/