Due to their size and weight, left turn accidents involving commercial vehicles can be particularly dangerous. It is crucial that, in order to improve road safety, we understand the unique challenges that these vehicles encounter when attempting a left turn. In this post, we will talk about some of these specific difficulties, the risks posed by these challenges, and explore strategies to avoid accidents when it comes to left turns involving large vehicles.
- The Scale and Size of Commercial Vehicles
Because commercial vehicles are typically much larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road, left turn maneuvers are made more complex. Buses, delivery trucks, and tractor trailers, tend to be longer, creating a wider turn radius which may cause the vehicle to encroach upon other lanes when making the turn. This not only poses a risk to motorists, but also to pedestrians and cyclists who may be caught in the blind spot of a left-turning commercial vehicle.
Another factor that is exacerbated by the sheer size and weight of commercial vehicles is the force of impact in the event of a collision This could cause more severe property damage and injuries when an accident occurs.
- Limitations due to Turning Radius
Drivers of commercial vehicles face challenges when turning due to their limited turn radius. Commercial trucks and buses require additional space when turning. Drivers may find it difficult to keep from crossing into adjacent lanes when navigating tight left turns in narrow intersections. In this situation, commercial vehicles risk colliding with unsuspecting vehicles or pedestrians as well as the surrounding infrastructure.
- Lack of Visibility
Another risk associated with the sheer size of commercial vehicles is large blind spots. For example, the length of these vehicles can obstruct the view of pedestrians and vehicles behind them. If drivers fail to spot vehicles and pedestrians in the surrounding area, there is an increased risk of a collision occurring when the driver attempts to complete the left turn.
- Off-Tracking and Trailer Swing
Off-tracking and trailer swing are two risk factors specific to turning commercial vehicles. A truck making a left turn will swing wider from the rear of the trailer, potentially colliding with other vehicles or pedestrians. Off-tracking is when the rear wheels of a long truck take a different path from the front of the truck, creating the potential for the trailer to collide with adjacent lanes.
- Stopping Power and Braking Distance
One risk factor associated with the weight of commercial vehicles comes from the additional stopping power and braking distance required to come to a full stop. When compared to passenger cars, large trucks need more time and distance to come to a complete stop. Drivers of commercial vehicles should anticipate the need to brake early when approaching the left turn lane. And should be going slow enough to come to a complete stop if the left turn cannot be completed.
- Pedestrians Zones and Tight Urban Spaces
Congested traffic spaces create additional risks for all drivers and pedestrians, but this risk is magnified when it comes to commercial vehicles. If you are driving a passenger vehicle, it may be appropriate to give large vehicles extra space to allow them to maneuver a tight left turn. The surrounding congestion could cause commercial vehicles to get dangerously close to nearby vehicles when making a left turn.
- Delivery Pressures and Time Constraints
One factor that isn’t specific to left turns comes from the tight time constraints that commercial drivers face. Though left turns are particularly dangerous when approached hastily by commercial vehicles, other road users should be cautious around commercial vehicles in general because drivers are often incentivized to get to their destination more quickly.
Mitigating Left Turn Accidents Involving Commercial Vehicles
- Education and Driver Training:
It is extremely important that proper training is provided for commercial drivers. Drivers of large vehicles should complete practical exercises involving left turns to become more familiar with the turn radius required to complete the turn safely. Lack of training can significantly increase the risk of a dangerous collision.
- Improved Vehicle Technology:
As driver assistance technology continues to advance, commercial vehicles should be equipped with technology that could increase safety for everyone on the road. Blindspot assistance technology could be particularly helpful for left turns involving commercial vehicles.
- Planning Routes:
Commercial drivers should be encouraged to plan their routes with potentially dangerous left turns in mind. If an intersection is particularly tight, the route should avoid turning at this intersection if possible. UPS, for example, has implemented a system which almost completely avoids left turns to mitigate the dangers associated with this complex maneuver.
- Driving Defensively:
It is important that commercial drivers anticipate the actions of other drivers, as well as changing traffic conditions. When making a left turn, it is extremely important that drivers of large vehicles do not assume that passenger vehicles will give the truck enough space to complete the turn safely. Commercial drivers should maintain awareness of their surroundings and refrain from making the left turn unless they are confident that they have enough room to complete the turn.
- Regular Vehicle Maintenance:
While not specific to left turns, regular vehicle maintenance is crucial for the safety of commercial drivers and passenger vehicles. Drivers of large vehicles should make sure their vehicle is safe to drive by completing frequent inspections and getting repairs if needed.
- Collaboration with Urban Planners:
Urban planners should collaborate with commercial driving companies in order to build infrastructure that is safe for large vehicles. By sharing data and insights, infrastructure can be built with left turn challenges in mind to mitigate the risks associated with wide turn radii and blind spots.
Left turn collisions associated with commercial vehicles have the potential to cause serious injuries and infrastructure damage. One way to help mitigate these risks is to be aware of the factors that make left turns difficult for large vehicles.
Commercial drivers and drivers of passenger vehicles should drive with these risks in mind. It is important that commercial drivers only attempt a left turn maneuver if they are confident that it is safe to do so. Drivers of passenger vehicles should be aware that a truck will require a wider turn radius and should give commercial vehicles the appropriate amount of space when possible. By working together, we can make our roads safer for everyone.