If you are driving a truck through the busy streets of a bustling city, the importance of having maximum awareness of your surroundings and clear visibility in front, to the sides, and to the rear cannot be overstated. However, some vehicles, including large trucks, are manufactured in a way that leaves drivers with significant “blind spots.” In an effort to address this problem, a debate is underway among the countries of Europe as to whether the installation of sensors on vehicles are adequate and preferred in order to compensate for these blind spots, as opposed to a wholesale redesigns of truck cabs.
The former option seems to have the momentum. Truck manufacturers such as Volvo, Daimler, and Scania, all represented by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) are advocating for the installation of sensors. The claim is that the sensors will save the approximately 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists who are killed each year throughout Europe in truck accidents. The ACEA is also proposing a direct vision standard that would establish a legal percentage of the road that drivers must be able to see through their vehicles’ windows.
The General Safety Regulation (GSR) governs the safety of new vehicles in the European Union. The European Commission proposed a revision that would enhance direct vision of truck drivers through the modification of production lines, and specifically the reshaping of the cab of these vehicles. The proposal is currently under debate by MEPs and member states.
Types of vehicle accidents caused by blind spots
- Sideswipes and T-bone accidents.These collisions sometimes occur due to drivers changing lane and failing to see other vehicles in blind spots. The damage resulting from these incidents is often proportional to the speed the vehicles are traveling.
- Backing into or over a pedestrian. Every vehicle has a blind spot below a certain height and distance from the rear-end of the vehicle. This is a danger zone in which a small child or even an adult who happens to be on the ground close to the back of the vehicle may be invisible to the driver moving in reverse.
Blind spots are present on every side of a tractor trailer’s rig. This includes in the front and back of the rig as well. Some of these blind spots can shield the driver’s eyes from one or more lanes of traffic.
ACEA’s efforts to promote sensors over truck cab redesign
As opposed to redesigning the cabs of these trucks, installing a sensor is much faster and less expensive. The ACEA funded a study to promote their agenda of sensor installation. The study, however, did not discuss how drivers may react to sensors. It also did not promote the benefits of direct vision. Only 26 cases were used to assess the effectiveness of direct vision, with a little less than half the cases pertaining specifically to smaller N2 vehicles that are less susceptible to blind spot issues.
Flaws with the sensor substitute theory
The ACEA study also fails to challenge the theory that sensors will work effectively. It does not address the issue of whether drivers can react properly to sensors if they cannot see the object triggering the sensor. As well, sensors on these vehicles may sound constantly in busy city environments, making them less effective. In addition, sensors may not function properly when they are covered with rain or mud.
On the other hand, it is been demonstrated that when drivers have direct vision as opposed to receiving notification indirectly through a sensor, they respond with a 0.7 seconds faster reaction time. For a truck traveling at 25 km/h, this reduces the stopping distance by 5 meters.
The establishment of direct vision requirements is supported by many entities in the EU, including cities, cyclists, and safety campaigners. The European Commission discovered that enhancing the direct vision requirements of trucks would reduce fatalities by as much as 550 per year.
Sensors certainly represent an important technology that can enhance safety on the roadway. They can play a key role in helping drivers “see” when direct vision is not possible. However, both direct vision improvements and sensors should be combined to maximize roadway safety. In addition, when sensors fail, automatic emergency braking technology required on all trucks can help save lives, particularly when cyclists or pedestrians alongside of a truck trailer are undetected by the driver’s eyes.
At Gainsberg Law, we understand the devastation that often occurs with trucking accidents. If you have sustained an injury in the Chicago area due to the negligence of a truck driver, we have the legal skills and experience to fight for your right to compensation. To arrange a free consultation about your case, call our law office today at 312.313.1621 or use our contact form to send us a request.