Monday, March 22, 2010

Motorcycle Blind Spots And Large Trucks

Backing a large truck is one of the most hazardous manuevers a driver faces. One major reason is due to a major blind spot behind the truck due to the sight limitations of the truck's side view mirrors.

Case in point: we recently resolved a case where an operator of a commercial garbage truck began to back up at the intersection of two major state roads in an effort to access a private driveway. The driver literally ran over a motorcyclist that was stopped behind the truck approximately 20-25 feet. Because the truck began to back up at a higher rate of speed than normal, and because of oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, the motorcyclist had nowhere to go when he perceived that the truck was continuing to back up and was not stopping. And since a motorcycle has no "reverse gear," the garbage truck driver unfortunately ran over the motorcyclist despite his efforts to evade the oncoming truck.

We employed a team of experts to re-create the accident and perform a blind spot analysis of the truck. Using an exemplar motorcycle, we established that the truck had a blind spot (defined as the distance behind the truck in which the motorcycle could not be seen in the side view mirrors) of an astonishing 106 feet.

The lessons here are obvious. First, large trucks should avoid backing up if at all possible. In this case, the inexperienced driver could have pulled directly into the driveway instead of the risky maneuver of attempting to back up over 63 feet on a state route in order to back into the driveway. Secondly, the driver failed to use a spotter (the fellow employee in the truck) to exit the truck and assist the driver in backing up, where the motorcyclist would have been easily seen. it is precisely for this reason why all Comercial Driving License (CDL) manuals strongly discourage backing and encourage the use of spotters if at all possible.

For all you motorcyclists, I imagine you would be suprised to learn that a large truck's blind spot for motorcycles is over 100 feet (it sure suprised me). So make sure you give yourself some extra distance behind a large truck if you find yourself stopped behind one. In our case our client did nothing wrong but, armed with this newfound knowledge, the extra distance you give yourself may give you the extra second or 2 you need to avoid the carelessness and inexperience of others.


mark allen roberts said...

this is great and I will share on my web site for motorcycle riders who want to drive from a wheelchair at . In addition I will contect your content to various motorcycle communities I am in, great job!

Mark Allen Roberts

Anonymous said...

Not trying to be critical (I ride a scooter, too), and I have no idea of the actual dynamics of this specific accident (other than your description on this post), but it strikes me why the motorcycle driver didn't simply ditch his/her vehicle (which, of course would end up just as well under the backing-up truck) and just jump to a side of the truck in order not to get injured by the truck? I think that some riders might be too intent into trying to save their motorcycles/scooters in case of a possible imminent accident, instead of first and foremost thinking of saving themselves. Like if the scooter/motorcycle is an extension of us (riders) when it is not. We can always ditch the scooter and try to run. Been there, done that, it did literally save my life. Again, I know nothing about how this particular accident occurred, but 25 feet is a long ways away, well enough, in my opinion to see that the truck is not going to stop if it is backing up and seems to be ready to run you over. Trying to escape together with your scooter/vehicle obviously is not going to work (not enough maneuverability, not enough space, no rear gear in cycles, etc), but why not drop the motorcycle and run to a side of the truck (assuming this was even an option)?

Brian said...

Very astute point. An additional fact: there was a young passenger on the motorcycle and the rider did not want to abandon the occupant. If the rider were alone, the motorcycle would have been abandonned.