Semi-trucks: Driver and Pedestrian Safety

Semi-truck drivers have a bad rap for being bullies of the highway. They pull in occupied lanes, hug the lines, and semi-truckdon’t let allow merging. This may appear as bullying, but more than likely, it’s a “No Zone” issue.

Semi-trucks have huge blind spots –  in front, on both sides, and behind their trailer. If another vehicle or even a pedestrian is in one of those blind spots, they may be out of the truck driver’s range of vision. Staying out of a large truck’s “No Zone” will reduce the odds of a semi-truck vs vehicle or pedestrian accident.

The “No Zone” includes:
  • 20 feet in front;
  • One lane to the driver’s side;
  • Two lanes on the passenger side and;
  • 30 feet behind.

Basically, if you can’t see the trucker in their side mirrors, they probably can’t see you either.

Here is a graphic from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) illustrating the “No Zone.”

There are other ways to stay safe when driving around semi-trucks as well.
    1. Again, ensure you can see the driver in the mirror before passing. Signal, then move into the left lane (never pass them in the right lane if you can avoid it) and accelerate so that you can get past the truck safely, but quickly.
    2. Make sure the truck is visible in your rearview mirror before you pull in front. As a precaution, give extra space.
    3. Avoid passing a truck on a downgrade when they tend to pick up speed.
    4. If a truck is passing you, slow down slightly and give the driver plenty of space.
  1. Cutting it close.
    1. Don’t cut in front of a big rig or wait until the last minute to brake if driving in front of one. It takes them up to 40% longer to stop than cars and pickup trucks.
    2. Trucks have air brakes. If the driver brakes and uses up the air before it can recharge, then he has no brakes for a second stop.  This will increase his stopping distance and will result in you getting rear ended.
    1. If driving behind a big rig, you are more than likely in one of their blind spots, plus, your ability to see other traffic will be diminished.
    2. If you rear-end a big truck, you can probably kiss your vehicle goodbye. can not only be injurious, but deadly. That’s a 80,000 pound truck vs a 5000 pound car collision.
    3. Rear ending a semi-truck can not only be injurious, but deadly. If the car drives under and gets stuck, those in the front seat can be instantly killed. Though commercial trucks are required to have a safety device called under ride guards, they’re not effective enough to always stop cars from driving under the trailer.
  2. Space to turn.
    1. Trucks require extra turning room. They swing wide, and sometimes may need to take a right turn from the middle lane as opposed to the far right lane.
    2. If a truck has signaled for a right turn, don’t pull along their right side.
    3. When you stop at an intersection, stay behind the stopping line or crosswalk. A semi-truck will require that space to make a left or right turn, depending on which direction they are heading.
Pedestrian safety around semi-trucks.

Pedestrians are not always visible to drivers. This goes double for the drivers of large trucks. It’s important to be cautious while out walking, especially at intersections and while crossing the street. Just last week a mom and her two children, an infant and three year-old were struck as they crossed the street in front of a semi that was pulling out into traffic. They were in one of his blind spots. The mom was uninjured, but the two children were admitted to Mary Bridge Hospital for evaluation.

The FMCSA offers the following tips to keep pedestrians safe when around large trucks:
  • Watch your walk ways. Walk on sidewalks and in crosswalks whenever possible. Pay attention to walk safety around semi truckssignals and keep a safe distance when standing on street corners. Trucks make wide right turns and occasionally run up onto the corner of the sidewalk. It is important for you to be alert and to move back. Mostly likely, the truck driver will not see you or may be distracted and you could be seriously injured or killed if hit.
  • Know your no-zones. Be careful of the blind spots, or No-Zones, when walking near or around trucks. Always assume the driver does not know that you are there. Make eye contact with the driver before walking in front of a truck that appears to be parked. If a truck is running, ensure there is plenty of room between you and the truck. Never walk behind a truck when it is backing up; truck drivers cannot see directly behind the truck and could seriously injure you.
  • Stopping distances. Use caution when crossing intersections and streets. You may think vehicles will stop for you, but they may not see you or even be able to stop. Remember, trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles and need much more space. Never take a chance with a truck, even if the driver sees you he may not be able to stop.
  • Make yourself visible. Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially when walking at night. Dressing to be seen will make it safer for you and drivers. Professional drivers do a lot of driving at night, and there’s a good chance a truck driver will not see you if you don’t make yourself visible. Carrying a flashlight is your safest bet for being seen at night.
  • Watch out for wide loads. Trucks with wide loads have very limited visibility as well as difficulty maneuvering. Wide loads are much heavier and take up lots of room on the road. You need to be aware when walking near a truck with a wide load, because the driver may not see you. Trucks with wide loads make even wider right turns, require more space, and take even longer to stop than other trucks on the road. Remember to keep your distance when walking around these large trucks.

Always err on the side of caution when driving or walking near a semi-truck. A collision with a large truck can be deadly. Safety does not lie solely on the shoulders of the truck driver. It’s up to all drivers and pedestrians to ensure their own safety on the streets.

The Perils of Spring Break

Some college student’s spring breaks have come and gone. For some, it’s just around the corner. The safety of spring break drinkingchildren during a spring break trip is a concern for many parents. Spring breakers are basking in the freedom of vacation away from parents and there seems to be a never-ending flow of alcohol. This combination can be injurious and deadly. With four college aged grandchildren, I share that concern. Being injured in a strange place, away from home and the comfort and care of parents can be frightening for a young adult. Here is some information I found regarding spring break safety that you can pass on to your children.

Over-service of alcohol: This is a huge. When college aged students go on a spring break trip, you know alcohol will more than likely be consumed – and a lot of it. Most states have dram shop laws, which allow licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars, and liquor stores to be held liable for selling or serving alcohol to individuals who cause injuries or death as a result of their intoxication.

Social host liability: Similar to dram shop laws, if an adult hosts a parties and alcohol is consumed by minors and as a result, injury or death occur, the host of the party may be held responsible. Injuries in the case of social host and dram shop laws don’t have to be traffic related. This also includes acts of violence.

Traffic accidents: Between the last week of February and the first week of April, a considerably higher number of traffic fatalities occur in popular spring break destinations compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year. Sometimes, it’s as dangerous to walk home. With an elevated amount of negligent driving this time of year, there is also risk of getting struck by a car as a pedestrian. It’s best to leave the car behind, stay off your feet and hail a cab or use Uber or Lyft for a safe ride back to the hotel.

Alcohol related injuries: Binge drinking can come with a price. We’ve all read stories about young adults dying from alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much can also turn any normal activity into a dangerous one, such as a boating, swimming, sitting in a hot tub or standing on a balcony.  Also, binge drinking has also resulted in a number of sexual assaults.

What is the best way to protect your child? If your child is going on a spring break trip, make sure you educate them on the dangers of binge drinking. Tell them to stay in groups with people they know and never leave a party or bar with strangers. Ensure they understand the risks of drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone intoxicated. Perhaps even give them access to your Uber account for a free ride back to their hotel. The best course of action is to keep them from going on a spring break vacation. Of course, that is easier said than done.

Don’t let the New Year start deadly

New Year’s Eve is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths.  According to the drinking and driving new yearNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on average, 130 deaths take place on New Year’s Eve.

Here are some tips regarding staying safe on New Years:

  • Designate a sober driver.
  • Save the number of a local cab service in your phone prior to heading out.
  • Hire a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event.
  • Take an Uber or Lyft home.
  • Stay in a hotel.

 

 

Don’t assume walking is a safe option.  New Years has the highest death rate of pedestrians than any other day of the year.  The walker is drunk in over a third of pedestrian fatalities.  Alcohol impairs your ability to walk and navigate, especially in the dark.  If you must walk:

  • As silly as it sounds, have a designated walker.
  • Drink responsibly
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
  • If you plan ahead of time, wear bright colored clothing and carry a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.
  • Walk in groups. This help with visibility also.

If you’re driving, it’s very simple. Don’t drink.

Have a fun, but safe New Years Eve.

Halloween Safety Part Three: Pedestrian Accidents

Halloween night is a big day for emergency room staff. Many ER visits are due to  injuries resulting from car vs. pedestrian Halloween Safetyaccidents. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are four times more likely to be hit by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. There are many reasons for pedestrian accidents on Halloween, including but not limited to:

  • Trick-or-treating after dark.
  • Children are likely to choose the shortest route such as crossing streets mid block, sometimes darting out between parked cars.
  • Smaller children may not be visible to drivers while crossing the street.
  • Parents overestimating their child’s ability to negotiate traffic.
  • Eager trick-or-treaters often forget about safety.

Motorists need to do their part avoiding pedestrian accidents and protecting children from harm on Halloween night. Here are some tips for driving safely on Halloween.

  • Stow away your cell phone. Pull over and stop to call, text or answer.
  • Don’t pass stopped vehicles. Children may be getting dropped off or picked up.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals and drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra brake time if a child darts in front of your car.
  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.
  • Look for children crossing the street midblock or between parked cars.
  • Carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible.
  • Always yield to young pedestrians. They may not stop, either because they don’t see your vehicle or don’t know how to safely cross the street.
  • If dropping off or picking up your own children, park and turn on your hazards.

Let’s keep the tragedies at bay this Halloween. Drive safely.

Do you have any other safety tips for those driving on Halloween night?

Halloween Safety Part Two: Trick-or-Treating

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that Halloween is one of the top holidays for emergency room visits. WednesdayTrick-or-treating

I talked about costume safety. Today I talk about safety while Trick-or-Treating. Younger children should always be accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating.  If you’re children are old enough to go on their own, make sure you talk to them about dangers they may encounter. Here are some tips to give older kids about Trick-or-Treat safety:

  • Have cell phones charged and on.
  • Be home by curfew or call immediately if there is a delay.
  • Take a flashlight, or at the very least, wear or carry glow sticks.
  • There is safety in numbers; don’t trick-or-treat alone.  Go in a group and stay together.
  • Never, ever go into a stranger’s house or car.  If this somehow happens, for instance, you’re forced in, scream as loud as possible to draw attention, and run away if feasible.
  • Only approach well lit houses.
  • Be aware of neighborhood dogs when trick-or-treating and remember that pets can impose a threat when you near their home.
  • Always use sidewalks and don’t walk in the streets, down alleys, or cut across lawns or driveways.
  • Use caution when crossing the street and make eye contact with drivers. Even the brightest, most reflective costumes can be hard to see when the sun goes down.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Only cross the street as a group at corners, using traffic signals, and crosswalks when available. Never cross between parked cars or out driveway
  • There is a difference between tricks and vandalism. Don’t cross that line. Vandalism is illegal.

As a parent, you should know what route your child is travelling, where else they might be going, and with whom they’re going.

If worried about sexual predators, look up where they reside in your area and tell children to stay away from those houses. In many states, registered sex offenders are prohibited from passing out candy and some even have to post a “no candy” sign in their yard.

Don’t assume your children know the rules. It’s better to give them reminders and get the eye roll rather than end up in the emergency room.

 

Next week I’ll discuss driving safely on Halloween, and tips for keeping your home safe for trick-or-treaters and your family.

Pedestrian fatalities

A woman was killed last Friday night walking across 6th Avenue to her 50th high school reunion. Tragedies such as pedestrianthis happen all too often and are usually preventable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,700 pedestrians were killed in traffic deaths in 2013, and more than 156,000 were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries.  Though children 14 and under make up the majority of pedestrian fatalities (21%), the 65 and older demographic come in at a close second (19%).

Like the accident that occurred on Friday, most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, at night, at non-intersection locations. It’s important to be careful while crossing the street, especially at night. Even if it’s a bit of a walk, it’s better to cross at a designated crosswalk or intersection than in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. About a third of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher.

The NHTSA has advice for both pedestrians and drivers on how to avoid pedestrian traffic accidents.

For Pedestrians:
  • Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever available.
  • If there is no sidewalk or path available, walk facing traffic, on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.
  • Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
  • Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you).
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.pedestrian crossing
  • Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for traffic while crossing.
  • Stay off of freeways, restricted-access highways and other pedestrian-prohibited roadways.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair abilities and judgment.
For Drivers:
  • Always and everywhere, be on the watch for pedestrians. Very often pedestrians are not walking where they should be.
  • Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in inclement weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.

Many cities across the United States have seen an increase of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and are making changes accordingly. In Tacoma, they have added:

  • 167 curb ramps
  • 23 bulbouts
  • 157 crosswalks
  • 4 flashing beacon systems
  • 44 countdown pedestrian signal heads

Still, even with improvements by government entities, it is up to the pedestrian to be in charge of their own safety.  Be diligent and aware, whether you are the driver or pedestrian, it will help save lives.