Staying Out of the "No-Zone"
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One common cause of accidents involving tractor trailers is the presence of other motorists in a truck driver’s “No-Zone.” However, what do the motor carriers mean when they put up signs on their tractor trailers for other motorists to stay out of their driver’s “No-Zone?” The “No-zone” is a designation for tractor-trailers and buses from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that basically equates to a “blind spot” for drivers of common automobiles and SUV’s. However, trucks and buses do not have blind spots as non-commercial drivers think of them. Because of the much larger size of tractor-trailers and buses, four “No-zones” surround any given tractor-trailer or vehicle of equivalent size.
Perhaps the most common pitfalls of the “No-zones” are the areas to the side of the tractor-trailer. A motorist may travel through the side “No-zone” just by the everyday occurrences of passing a trucker or being passed by one, so the key is simply to keep on moving. If a truck driver needs to change lanes or perhaps even make a quick swerve to avoid a road obstruction, then that operator has no ability to see a driver in his side “No-zone.” The FMSCA recommends this safety tip for passing motorists: look for the truck driver’s face in his side-view mirror. If you cannot see the driver in either side-view mirror, then you should assume he cannot see you.
The rear “No-Zone” is a blind spot in which a motorist has much more control over avoiding a long stay. Think about the fact that truck drivers do not have rear-view mirrors or a rear window like regular motorists. The best they can use is either side-view mirror, and we have already established that those are limited in scope. Most motorists find themselves in the rear “No-Zone” by tailgating a tractor-trailer or bus, which is already a dangerous practice in the event of a short-stop by the truck operator in traffic. Tailgating also leaves the truck driver unaware of the position of the car behind him, so the next move might come as a surprise to the truck driver as a motorist appears from outside his rear “No-Zone.” Less common but more dangerous is crossing directly behind a tractor-trailer that is backing up. The FMCSA estimates that hundreds of pedestrians and motorists are killed and injured while crossing through the rear “No-Zone.” So, unless you are stopped behind a tractor trailer in traffic or at a stop light, stay out of the rear “No-Zone.”
Safety on the roadways does not prevent a motorist from being able to pass a tractor trailer going slower in the right lane. However, there is a safe way to pass a truck or bus, and motorists often forget to leave some considerable distance between their vehicles and the tractor trailers they pass on the highway. Believe it or not, tractor trailers and buses have a front “No-Zone” that, if not respected by a passing motorist, can lead to a rear end collision. The FMCSA recommends that, when passing a tractor trailer, motorists look for the entire front of the truck in their rear-view mirrors before pulling into the trucker’s lane. Keep in mind: truck drivers need at least twice the time of normal motorists to brake.
Staying out of the “No-Zones” is one way a motorist can increase the chances of avoiding an accident on the road with a tractor trailer. More than car accidents involving common automobiles and SUV’s, tractor trailers and buses cause more frequent and more severe destruction and injuries due to their size. For more information on avoiding the “No-Zones,” visit the FMCSA’s website at www.sharetheroadsafely.org/nozone.