During 2017, the leading identifiable causes of crashes caused by commercial truck drivers in Virginia were
- Following too close
- Improper lane change
- Improper turn
- Failure to yield
In all 2017 wrecks involving tractor-trailers, flatbeds and freight trucks like moving vans, 77 people in cars and pickups, on bikes and on foot died. Another 727 drivers, riders and pedestrians suffered injuries serious enough to require medical treatment in crashes blamed on the negligence or recklessness of commercial truck drivers.
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The illustration to the right, which shows the location and size of large truck drivers’ blind spots, explains why so many of the collisions involving commercial vehicles occur during lane changes or turns and in situations when the truck driver may not see obstacles directly in front of them. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) calls these blind spots “No Zones,” indicating that people should stay out of the areas where they will be invisible to truck drivers.
Smaller vehicles, bike riders and pedestrians cannot always avoid the no zones, however. As a commercial truck travels along a road or highway, its blind spots move with it. People will travel into or be overtaken by the truck’s blind spots no matter how careful those people are. And at stop lights and interstate ramps, the people alongside, in front of, or behind large trucks cannot instantly move to make themselves visible.
Consequently, semi operators and drivers of other large commercial duties have high legal duties to exercise extreme caution while moving through or entering traffic. The FMCSA offers these specific tips for how truck drivers can reduce their risk for causing lane change and merge crashes:
- Check your mirrors regularly (at least every 5 to 8 seconds) and before you change lanes, turn or merge.
- Check left, right and left again before entering an intersection. Being able to quickly glance in each direction (of the crossing traffic) will provide you sufficient time to recognize oncoming vehicles.
Beyond what a truck driver must do on the road, trucking companies have legal obligations to ensure that the drivers they employ have the proper training and adequate equipment to operate safely. When a company fails to meet these duties, it can also be held responsible for a crash that inflicts injuries or causes deaths.