How to Avoid Semi-Truck Blind Spots

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The average semi-truck is 70 to 80 feet long, including cab and trailer. The long length of an 18-wheeler severely limits the truck driver’s visibility of the surrounding roadway. Semi-trucks end up with what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) calls No-Zones, or large blind spots located on all four sides of the truck. Ignoring the No Zones as a passenger vehicle driver could contribute to a serious truck accident.

Where Are the Blind Spots?

In 2016, 4,213 crashes in the U.S. involved large trucks. Truck accidents almost always result in greater injuries and damages to passenger vehicle drivers and occupants. Preventing a collision is up to both truck and motor vehicle drivers. The first step in avoiding a semi-truck’s blind spots is knowing where they are. A large truck has blind spots to its front, rear, left, and right sides.

  • 20 feet from the front of the truck
  • 30 feet from the rear of the truck
  • One lane to the left of the truck
  • Two lanes to the right of the truck

A truck driver has extra-large rearview mirrors to improve visibility, but they still cannot eliminate major blind spots. A good tip to remember as a passenger vehicle driver is that if you cannot see the truck driver’s face in his or her rearview mirror, the truck driver cannot see you. When in doubt, increase your distance around a semi-truck.

Do Not Hover in a No Zone

It is not always possible to completely avoid driving in a semi-truck’s blind spots, especially in heavy traffic. If you end up in a No Zone, do your best to get out of it as quickly as possible. Drive straight through the No Zone, without hovering in one place too long. Staying in a blind spot can increase the odds of the truck driver merging on top of you. Merge accidents are a common cause of fatal semi-truck collisions.

If you have to pass a semi-truck, do so quickly and safely. Do not get back in front of the semi until you have put at least 20 feet of distance between the two vehicles. When passing a semi, use your turn signals early so the truck driver knows where you plan on going. Never cut a truck driver off, as a truck’s brakes are not as efficient as a smaller vehicle’s. This could lead to a serious rear-end collision.

Assume Truck Drivers Do Not See You

Do not make the deadly assumption that a truck driver sees you or knows your vehicle is there. If you have hovered in a trucker’s blind spot for too long, the driver might not realize you are still in the lane. Instead, assume the opposite – that a truck driver does not see you and could merge at any moment. Drive defensively, always paying attention to what drivers around you are doing. Prepare to react quickly to changing roadway situations, such as the commercial truck suddenly switching lanes or hitting the brakes.

Watch for Wide Turns

Blind spots to the sides of semi-trucks can be especially problematic during turns. Semis make wide turns, swinging out in the opposite direction before turning. Vehicles too close to either side of a semi during a turn are in danger of collisions. The truck driver may not see the driver, and could turn on top of the smaller vehicle. Never try to squeeze by a turning semi. Leave plenty of room so the truck can turn safely.

Drive Predictably

Darting in and out of blind spots, weaving between traffic, misusing the left-hand lane, slamming on your brakes, speeding, and otherwise disobeying traffic laws can increase your odds of a dangerous truck accident. Obeying the rules, on the other hand, can keep you predictable and help truck drivers avoid wrecks. Driving safely and predictably can give you time to get out of a truck driver’s blind spot before he or she switches lanes or merges. Always use your turn signals, keep a safe following distance, and pay attention to the road.