Understanding and Preventing Blind Spot Accidents
More than 840,000 blind-spot accidents occur each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many of those accidents are attributable to some kind of error by a driver. New car safety systems may prevent some blind-spot accidents from occurring, but the only way to make your own driving doesn't contribute to a blind-spot accident is to understand where blind spots occur and know how to prevent and avoid them.
When you are operating a passenger car or SUV, there are three different types of vehicle blind spots you should understand:
- Blind spots around your own vehicle;
- Blind spots around other passenger vehicles;
- Blind spots around large trucks.
Blind Spots of Your Own Vehicle
The blinds spots for a passenger vehicle cover an area along the sides of your car toward the rear of the car, on both sides. Vehicles traveling in these areas often are not visible in either your rear-view or side mirrors. There is also a blind spot directly behind your car.
A blind-spot accident can occur if a vehicle is "invisible" because it is in your blind spot when you change lanes to pass or make a turn. If you collide with a car in your blind spot (or if you collide with a vehicle because you were driving in that vehicle's blind spot), your accident will be a blind-spot accident.
You can actually “test” the blind spots along the sides of your own car by watching a vehicle approach in your rear-view mirror, then continuing to watch as it prepares to pass you. There will be a point at which you can no longer see the vehicle in your rear-view mirror, but you also cannot see it in your side-view mirrors. That’s your blind spot.
If your car’s rear- and side-view mirrors are properly adjusted, your blind spots will be minimized to the extent possible. The rear-view mirror should frame your rear window. Side-view mirrors are more difficult to adjust — and unfortunately, many drivers do not understand how to correctly adjust the side-view mirrors.
When you’re sitting in the driver’s seat and look at your side mirrors, you should barely see any of the side of your car. The mirrors should be focused on the area beside and behind your car, not on your car itself. (After all, it's not your car that you're trying to see.) Adjust your side-view mirrors accordingly.
Blind-spot accidents often occur when a car is changing lanes or making a turn. In addition to making sure your mirrors are properly adjusted, your regular practice when changing lanes or turning should be to do a “shoulder check”: Briefly turn your head to check for cars that might be in a blind spot in an adjacent lane or behind and beside you.
Blind Spots of Other Passenger Vehicles
Other cars and SUVs have the same blind spots that you have in your own car. If you’re in another driver’s blind spot, that driver will not see you. If he or she decides suddenly to change lanes or turn, you may end up in a blind-spot accident or an accident caused because you swerve to avoid the vehicle that is changing lanes or turning.
You can easily avoid having that happen by staying out of the blind spots of other vehicles. That means not driving alongside the rear of another car. If you find yourself in that spot, either drop back or increase your speed and get past the car. (While that sounds like simple advice, pay attention the next time you are driving on a multi-lane highway. You will see many drivers lingering in the blind spot of other vehicles. In every case, that's a blind-spot accident just waiting to happen.)
Blind Spots Around Trucks: The Most Dangerous Blind-Spot Accidents of All
Passenger car drivers often think that because the driver of a “big rig” sits up so high, he or she can see everything around going on around the truck cab and trailer. That impression is very wrong. In fact, the blind spots around a tractor trailer truck are enormous — and extremely dangerous for passenger cars.
Truck crashes cause serious injuries that can be fatal for drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles. There are many reasons, but the truck’s blind spots can be a contributing factor. (You can read more of the reasons in our article Truck Crashes Are Often Deadly — and Here’s Why.)
There is an area around every truck sometimes referred to as the “No Zone.” It’s the area around the truck where the driver cannot see you or where you are so close that the truck cannot stop or maneuver safely. Sometimes lawyers even refer to “no zone” collisions, indicating that an accident occurred because another vehicle was driving in a truck’s blind-spot area.
Truckers do have an excellent view forward of the cab — and they have bigger mirrors — but they have very large blind-spot areas directly in front of the cab, behind the trailer, and along each side. The blind-spot area along the right side is even larger than the one along the left side. If you drive in any of these blind-spot areas, your car is virtually invisible to the truck driver.
You may have heard the saying “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you” in reference to truck blind spots. It’s not a joke or light-hearted wisecrack. It’s actually true. If you cannot see the truck driver’s reflection in his or her side mirror, you are in the driver’s blind spot. Staying there poses a significant risk to you and your passengers.
When you share the road with big trucks, there are a number of precautions you should take to stay safe and avoid the blind-spot areas of trucks, including:
- Never pass a truck on the right side;
- Avoid staying in the blind spot or "No Zone," beside or behind of a large truck;
- Maintain a safe distance when driving behind a truck;
- Maintain a constant speed when passing a large truck;
- After passing, leave a safe amount of space between you and the truck before you signal and return to the lane in front of the truck.
These precautions also apply to other large vehicles, like buses.
An Ounce of Prevention …
Understanding where blind spots exist around your own car, other passenger vehicles, and trucks goes a long way to preventing blind-spot accident accidents. While it sounds like a lot to remember, the strategy is actually quite simple: Adjust your vehicle’s mirrors correctly, pay attention to where you position your vehicle with respect to other cars and trucks, and make sure to do a “shoulder check” when you are passing or turning. Taking these precautions won’t prevent all accidents, but it definitely will help avoid blind-spot accidents that can be prevented.
Who's At Fault For a Blind-Spot Accident?
There are many factors — and facts — that go into determining who was at fault in an accident. If the circumstances of an accident indicate that a blind spot may have been a factor, that is one of many facts that will be taken into account in determining fault. The fact that a blind spot may have been involved is not conclusive by itself of who was at fault.
You can read more about Virginia accident law in our blog post, How Can I Claim Personal Injury From a Virginia Car Accident?
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Car Accident Attorney
Blind spots are just one of many reasons that an accident can occur. Accidents will still occur, no matter how careful you are in paying attention to blind spots when you drive.
If you or a loved one suffered severe injuries in a Virginia accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach car accident lawyer Jeff Brooke has the experience and skill to help you and your family. Contact us by phone at (757) 785-0837 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.