"No Zone" Crashes

In 1991, Congress directed the Federal Highway Administration (now under the direction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), to educate motorists how to safely share the road with big trucks. The goal was to increase awareness of the danger areas around commercial vehicles. These danger areas were called "no zones" and represent blind spots in which cars disappear from the view of the truck driver.

Research suggests that crashes between trucks and cars are much more likely to occur in these "no zones." These danger areas consist of the side no-zone, the rear no-zone, and the front no-zone.

In a study using 1996 data, it was estimated that 32,500 crashes or 13% of all two vehicle crashes between passenger vehicles and large trucks occurred in the front no-zone. Side no-zone crashes approximated 21,500 of non intersection encroachments and 10,500 intersection encroachments for a total of 12% of the two vehicle crashes between trucks and cars. The rear no-zone accounted for 25,000 crashes or 10% of these same crashes.

The conclusions reached by the study indicate that of a total 258,000 crashes between a large truck and a passenger vehicle in 1996 a total of approximately 89,500 crashes, or 35% occurred within the no-zones. This translates into an estimated 30,500 personal injuries caused by no-zone crashes.

How Can They be Avoided?

The major push in crash avoidance in the no-zone has centered around educating motorists about no-zones. This includes identifying where the no-zones are located and information on how to stay out of these zones as much as possible. Moreover, if a motorist is in a truck's no-zone, he should be more defensive and aware of the fact that the truck driver likely cannot and does not see him.

Many trucks have decals on the back of the rig which tell motorists about the identity of the no-zones. They also caution drivers who pass rigs on the right to be aware that the truck makes wide right turns. This can avoid a side no-zone collision on the right side with a passing motorist. Research suggests that motorists would be less inclined to drive dangerously in the vicinity of large trucks if they were better informed about the trucks' limitations and capabilities.

Following too close to the large truck in his rear no-zone has also been a topic of the no-zone campaign. Again, most motorists do not realize that debris can fall from a truck or be kicked up by its tires presenting a dangerous situation. Driving that close also restricts visibility and limits reaction time in an emergency.

Understanding and avoiding no-zones is the key to limiting these devastating crashes.