How do you prevent the blind spot problem?
In 2017 for the first time more traffic accidents with cyclists than motorists
Every year, dozens of people still die and thousands of people are still wounded in the EU as a result of blind spot accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists. The blind spot problem is keeping the government, logistics companies and social organisations rather busy. Over the past few years, various measures have been taken to increase lorry-related safety, but these don’t appear to be sufficient. Lorries are simply not designed for urban areas. Do the guidelines for new lorries need to be tightened, or does the solution for the blind spot problem lie outside of the lorry? And why is it so difficult to find a solution?
What blind spot measures have already been taken for lorries?
Over the past few years, rather a lot of measures have been taken to make lorries safer. For example, all Dutch lorries registered from 2003 onwards are now fitted with a blind spot mirror. Since 2007, a compulsory front view mirror, a more convex close-proximity mirror and a more convex wide-angle mirror have also been added. European regulations also stipulate that as of 2011, all European lorries must be fitted with these additional visual field fixtures.
Only when the mirrors are properly adjusted and actually used do they help
improve road safety” – Institute for Road Safety Research, The Netherlands (SWOV) –
This obligation can only stop blind spot accidents from happening if the additional fixtures are properly adjusted too. It is very difficult to adjust the mirrors when the driver is travelling alone, which is why there are various mirror adjustment points in the Netherlands where the driver is able to adjust their mirrors in accordance with the guidelines.
Vehicle technology; could lorries be even safer?
Despite the compulsory additional mirrors, things still go wrong far too frequently, which is why eighteen European cities recently wrote the European Commission a letter asking them to tackle the blind spot problem in urban areas. They believe that vehicle safety should be improved and the EU is the only body able to make this compulsory
Low entry trucks for a better view
According to the cities, low cabs help to improve the driver’s view. Transport & Environment already conducted research into this in 2016. The conclusion was clear: lorries with low-entry cabs, such as the Mercedes-Benz Econic, are safest in areas where there are lots of cyclists and pedestrians.
“The lower the driver sits, the better his direct view of what’s
happening around the truck” – Transport & Environment –
Transport & Environment is therefore calling on the EU to make low-entry trucks compulsory for distribution work. The EU has already announced such rules, but they are not expected to come into force until 2028.
Camera systems safer than mirrors?
Camera systems are another opportunity to reduce the blind spot. Unfortunately the EU only uses cameras as an aid, but shouldn’t this legislation be amended? Technological developments are occurring very rapidly at the moment. If it were down to Scania, the ‘actual’ mirrors would be removed from the lorry altogether.
“With a digital mirror system, the driver’s direct view
is increased and the blind spot decreased.” – Scania
They recently conducted a test that involved removing all mirrors from the truck and replacing them with a digital mirror system. The findings are clear: the driver’s direct view is increased and the blind spot is reduced. Another advantage is that the driver also has a better view in bad weather and when the windows are dirty.
Blind spot signalling system
Blind spot signalling systems also help to increase road safety. There are systems that warn the lorry driver against a cyclist in their blind spot, such as the Lexguard system and the Mercedes Benz Sideguard Assist system. But there is also a system that alerts cyclists and pedestrians with a sound and flashing light signal. According to the Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union), the disadvantage of this system is that the responsibility lies with the cyclist, although he has right of way over the lorries turning right.
Additional window in the co-driver’s door
The glass door on the right-hand side can also help to improve visibility and safety. In their latest models of lorries, Daf and Scania have included an option for additional windows in the door on the right-hand side, which allows the driver to see immediately whether anyone is standing next to the lorry. The disadvantage is that this window is optional and yet to be made compulsory.
Truck manufactures, among others, are developing enough windows to increase safety around the blind spot. The main problem is that it often takes the EU years to make these systems compulsory.
Measures relating to information
The aforementioned measures may cause blind spot-related accidents if they are used properly, thereby transferring the blind spot problem to the lorry driver. However, in addition to the lorry driver, other road users should also be made aware of the danger of the blind spot.
Lorry drivers and the blind spot
It is important that an employer trains drivers properly and makes it clear that safety has a high priority. It is also compulsory for all lorry drivers to take additional training every five years. During such training, the focus is on what the driver can personally do about the blind spot problem, such as how to adjust mirrors correctly.
Cyclists and the blind spot
Additional visual field fixtures and training of lorry drivers are reducing blind spot-related accidents, but are not resolving the problem entirely. It is therefore vital that other road users receive accurate information. The Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond) has been warning cyclists against dangers involving the blind spot for lorry drivers for years now, and gives a number of tips that they can bear in mind.
Children and the blind spot
Road users, and children in particular, usually don’t have a clue what a lorry driver is able to see, which is why there are various projects to make primary school children aware of a lorry’s blind spot. In a real lorry, children learn how difficult it is to see them. They are impressed by this and it helps them to retain the information.
Are self-driving cars the solution to the blind spot problem?
Self-driving vehicles are gradually making road transport safer. Modern technology allows you to calculate the probability of a collision, and prevent it by allowing the lorry to brake for you. Could this offer a solution to the blind spot problem in the future? A computer doesn’t get tired, doesn’t get distracted, is able to detect more and is able to respond faster than a human driver.
Separating cyclists and lorries
In addition to additional information and making safer lorries compulsory, the greatest benefit seems to be derived from measures outside of the lorry. For example, the infrastructural change ASL (advanced stop line), where cyclists stop in a box in front of the cars, has already proven to increase road safety. So are those the types of solutions that are required? Do cyclists and lorries in the city simply need to be separated from one another?
One option is to ban lorries on certain routes surrounding schools and at times when there are large numbers of children cycling to school. The environmental zones in the centres of major cities are already playing their part in reducing the number of lorries in the city. But is this sufficient? Or should heavy and light vehicles be separated from each other in a structural manner?
The drastic measure to ban HGVs from urban areas
is in keeping with the Strategic Road Safety Plan 2008-2020 – SWOV –
This can be achieved in the long term by banning HGVs from the city centre and only allowing them to travel on main roads, making the city centre only accessible to light goods vehicles without blind spots.