Ten days ago, tragedy struck when a Jacksonville woman driving south on US 17 in Fleming Island was struck by a tractor trailer. After being struck, the woman’s vehicle left the highway and impacted a support piling for the pedestrian walkway that spans from Pace Island to Black Creek.
The driver of the semi truck left the scene of the collision. He was later pulled over by a Clay County Sheriff’s deputy who witnessed the collision. The driver was arrested for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in a fatality. The semi driver claimed he was unaware that the collision even happened. Florida Highway Patrol relays that the semi driver was changing into the woman’s lane when the collision occurred.
Given the manner in which this collision occurred, it may have been due to the car being located in the driver’s blind spot. The woman’s car was to the right of the semi driver and next to his trailer. This puts the car in the classic location of a blind spot for the truck driver.
Due to the size of a tractor trailer, there are significant blind spots. The height of the tractor adds to the problem as the driver and the mirrors make seeing a small car that is next, and close, to the tractor on its right side very hard to see.
In order to prevent these types of collisions, defensive driving is a must.
In 1994, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established a program related identifying “no zones” to educate the public on safely sharing the road with large commercial vehicles. “No zones” are areas to avoid as they present blind spots where truck drivers may have a difficult time seeing you. Advice for avoiding “no zones” includes:
-do not linger on the side of a semi truck, especially the right side, either speed up or slow down to get yourself away from a blind spot;
-when passing a semi truck, pass on the left side, again due to the larger blind spot on the right side of the truck; and
-stay far behind a semi truck as they cannot easily see you, semi trucks do not have rear view mirrors (as all that semi drivers would see in a rear view mirror is their trailers).
For their part, truck drivers switching lanes to their right also have a protocol for safety. First, they are advised to signal lane changes at least five seconds in advance of their turn. Next, they are to check their mirrors and to use a fender mounted mirror to provide maximum visibility. Before turning, the driver must lean forward and over to look into the blind spot to make sure there are no cars in their right side blind spot.
Finally, truck drivers are advised to allow six seconds between the truck and the nearest vehicle they are following. In this manner, the driver can safely stop and does not have to perform a sudden lane change to avoid rear ending another vehicle. Such a sudden lane change usually does not allow time for properly checking for vehicles in the blind spot.