Just Whose Blind Spot is It Anyway?
Way too often we hear from defendant truckers who have cut off other drivers and moved into a lane occupied by another vehicle, or backed into a vehicle, and their excuse is “that you were in my blind spot”.
Aside from the practical safety concerns when you are around a semi tractor trailer, which suggest that you want to know just what can be seen by the driver with the mirrors that are affixed to the cab of the tractor, and also be aware of where the driver cannot see through those mirrors, does the law really make the person who is runover by a semi, if they’re in a blind spot, the fault of the victim who was run over by the truck?
We start with the premise that if you’re going to move a vehicle into an area that it is not presently occupying, whether that vehicle is a car or truck, the driver of the vehicle must be sure that the vehicle can safely be moved into the new lane of travel. In other words, can you put a blindfold on and simply drive your vehicle forward without being able to see where you’re going? I think the answer universally would be: no you cannot do that.
However, when it comes to moving from one lane of traffic to another on expressway, or backing up in a parking lot to back up to a loading dock, trruckers often think that the responsibility of seeing where you are moving your vehicle, to make sure that there is no other vehicle occupying that space, somehow switches to being the responsibility of anybody and everybody EXCEPT the driver of the truck.
Thankfully the Federal motor carrier safety regulations provide that it is the responsibility of the truck operator to make certain that they know that it’s safe to move their vehicle into an area that potentially could be occupied by another vehicle or pedestrian. Those regulations provide that the operator of a commercial motor vehicle must have knowledge and driving skills including knowledge of:
“Proper use of the motor vehicle’s safety system, including . . . side and rear-view mirrors, proper mirror adjustments . . .” .” 49 C.F.R. §383.111(a)(3).
“The importance of proper visual search, and proper visual search methods, including: (i) seeing ahead and to the sides; (ii) use of mirrors; and (iii) seeing to the rear.” 49 C.F.R. §383.111(a)(7).
“(1) Ability to use proper search methods; (2) Ability to signal appropriately when changing direction in traffic; (3) Ability to adjust speed to the configuration and condition of the roadway, weather and visibility conditions, traffic conditions, and motor vehicle, cargo and driver conditions; (4) Ability to choose a safe gap for changing lanes, passing other vehicles, as well as for crossing or entering traffic; . . . (8) Ability to observe the road and the behavior of other motor vehicles, particularly before changing speed and direction.” 49 C.F.R. §383.113(c).
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