Blind Areas Around Big Trucks

MirrorPoster_72dpiAll vehicles have areas (or “zones” or “spots”) around the vehicle where it is difficult to see other cars or trucks even with the help of various mirrors. Most commonly, the area immediately behind the driver’s door on the left side (or the passenger door on the right side) present “hiding spots” where other vehicles may lurk out of sight.

At highway speeds, merging or changing lanes can become a disaster if your movement connects with another vehicle that was in your “blind area”.

To help minimize blind areas, some folks install additional mirrors, cameras or even specialized sensors to detect and alert to the presence of vehicles in these blind areas.

For larger tractor trailers, the size, shape and location of blind areas presents special concerns to truck drivers. While they must do their part to scan around their truck, other motorists have a responsibility to cooperate by understanding that their car may be virtually undetectable within the blind area and do their best to keep out of that zone. Passing large trucks promptly instead of dwelling alongside is one example of a productive, courteous step to avoiding crashes.

The Utah Department of Transportation (as one example) has invested in public education materials to help all motorists and commercial drivers reduce crashes by working together. A colleague shared an example of their video on blind zones around large trucks (called “NO ZONES” in the video — as in these are not the zones to hang about in).

Take a look:

Another video in their series is closely related to this topic — since we’re hoping motorists (and other commercial drivers) won’t hang out in the “no-zone”, we also want the to complete their pass or merge safely.  One danger of passing a big truck is cutting them off (cutting directly in front of them).  This robs the big truck of stopping distance in case of a need to stop suddenly and increases the risk that you’d be hit from behind in such an instance.

Take a look:

These are short, easy to understand modules.  More topics can be found at http://www.udot.utah.gov/trucksmart/index.php

Remember, traffic safety is every driver’s responsibility!

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Merging at Ramps

junction13Accessing a highway can present several challenges to drivers – whether novice or experienced: poor weather, low light levels, road design and the discourtesy of other drivers can each contribute factors that increase our risk of a crash while merging at ramps.

In a perfect driving world, we’d be the only operator and vehicle on the road; however, that’s just not possible.  We face congestion, road work, and delays each day as we go from site to site.  Merging adds stress since we have to cope with limited visibility areas (aka “blind spots”) and finding that gap in traffic flow where we can “squeeze in” to our spot with all the other vehicles.

SafetyZone-Safety GoalJuly’s Ten-Minute Training Topic provides drivers and their supervisors with insights and discussion about merging at ramps.  The driver handout refreshes operators on common problems encountered, and offers reminders about traffic, ramp metering and even wrong-way crashes that happen when a confused (or impaired) motorist manages to take the wrong ramp and rushes head-long into oncoming traffic.  The slideshows also help to illustrate these issues and aids for drivers.

Automotive Fleet Magazine recently posted a nice article and video to promote safe merging at on ramps.  To view these click HERE.

ramp collisions

Construction Season Reminders

The Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHWA) recently posted a press release reminding all drivers to show extra care and caution when driving through or near work zones on highways.

The memo was to celebrate National Work Zone Awareness Week, but the message is appropriate at all times of the year:

National Work Zone Awareness Week is held each April at the traditional start of construction season, when the number of workers on roads and highways increases. Though highway workers are often among the victims of such crashes, it’s important for drivers to understand that four out of five victims in work zone crashes are actually drivers and their passengers. In a typical five-day work week, an average of seven motorists and one worker are killed. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone or do not pay attention to the changing road conditions and run into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers or drive off the road completely.

The problem is getting worse, too.  Consider that during 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 587 people died in highway work-zone fatalities – an increase of 11 fatalities compared to 2010.

“Workers put themselves in harm’s way to help the rest of us by building and maintaining the roads and bridges that get us where we need to go as safely as possible,” said FHWA Administrator Mendez. “When it comes to keeping highway workers and drivers safe, we’re all in this together.”

To learn more about National Work Zone Awareness Week, navigate to this link — http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.