No More Blind Spots

The so-called blind spot remains a problem despite modern mirror- and camera technology. Too many bicyclists and pedestrians are overlooked and hurt when truck drivers turn. The turning assistant is able to prevent such serious accidents.

Despite his elevated position, the driver has no complete overview of the traffic. Photo: Daimler AG

Despite his elevated position, the driver has no complete overview of the traffic. Photo: Daimler AG

Bicyclists should generally be wary of trucks. Because even though the truck drivers sit enthroned far above the rest of the traffic, they don’t have complete view over everything.  Especially during right turns, certain areas on the side of the truck are like a black hole for the driver, in which other road users disappear. The danger: if you’re not keeping a good distance or if you persist on your right of way as a bicyclist, you’re taking a deadly risk.

The problem has been known for a long time and awareness campaigns are consistently being held by various organizations, like the European Road Safety Council ETSC, the ADAC, or the DEKRA, to reduce the number of accidents. “Parents should convey to their children to keep a certain distance to trucks at intersections, and should heed this advice themselves,” says DEKRA accident researcher Walter Niewöhner. But sometimes, stopping next to a truck can’t be avoided, for example on cycle paths. “In that case, keep an eye on the truck and if possible make eye contact with the driver,” the expert advises.

The turning assistant could prevent accidents

But despite all these warnings, accidents still happen all the time, and in a collision of large, heavy vehicles with smaller road users like bicyclists or pedestrians, they’re fatal more often than not. The precarious thing about the current situation is that a technical solution to prevent these accidents actually exists – the turning assistant. The transport industry is already demanding the integration of the turning assistant from the manufacturers, but so far without success.

Ultimately, concrete proposals must be made for the protection of the weakest road users in case of accidents during turns, the Federal Association Road Transport Logistics and Disposal (BGL) emphasizes. “Not a single truck manufacturer offers turning assistants that break automatically in emergencies,” he criticizes. And even for something as simple as an acoustic warning signal for the driver in an emergency, the market stands there empty-handed. “Only a single truck manufacturer offers such a radar-based system for parts of its product line.”  

Right- or leftturn accidents between trucks and bicyclists or pedestrians are fatal in many cases. Photo: DaimlerCertain areas at the side of the truck are not visible for the driver. Photo: Daimler AGIf bicyclists are in the blind spot of a truck, they should keep enough distance. Photo: Daimler AGBy means of an optical warning signal, the turning assistant draws attention to pedestrians or bicyclists in the blind spot. Photo: MANOn the cycle path, if possibile, make eye contact with the driver, advises DEKRA accident researcher Niewöhner. Photo: DEKRA

Now, support could be coming out of Brussels. The EU Commission is currently revising the regulations for general vehicle safety, and the European Parliament has already drafted its concept. This also includes the obligatory installation of automatic emergency brake assistants with pedestrian-, bicyclist- and motorcyclist detection, especially for trucks. The ambitious objective of the EU is to ultimately have no more traffic fatalities in Europe by 2050. The Commission’s proposal is expected at the beginning of 2018, but more time will pass until its implementation. To immediately prevent accidents from happening and to spare drivers traumatizing experiences, transport companies are already taking matters into their own hands and are equipping their vehicles with cameras and acoustic warning systems on an optional basis.

According to experts, improved direct sight for drivers is essential. To enforce this, Western Europe’s largest metropolis, London, is addressing the problem with its own measures. The city of 9 million inhabitants is currently implementing a Direct Vision Standard (DVS) with five categories. For trucks, which don’t meet the necessary requirements, the city will become a “no-go area” and will simply be closed off. The reason: in the past three years, trucks were involved in 70 percent of fatal accidents of bicyclists, despite them having only a share of four percent of the kilometers covered on the road.

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