Spotlight on blind spots

by Carrol McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. — Aptly called “Angles Morts” (dead angles) in French, blind spots around trucks have been fingered as the cause of some truck accidents. To increase awareness of them, the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) launched an awareness program this May directed at cyclists, pedestrians and truck drivers.

“We have been working to develop this campaign for over a year,” says Eric Santerre, provincial coordinator of media relations and prevention, with the SAAQ. “Without necessarily having striking data of the accidents that may have been caused by heavy vehicle blind spots, this problem has been identified in some accidents. The lack of knowledge of this reality has led us to believe that there was a place for an awareness campaign.”

This campaign follows on the heels of a program last year called “100% vigilant.” It included “show-and-tells” in which pedestrians and cyclists were invited to climb up in the cab of a truck to see just how restricted drivers views are around their trucks. A survey done last year showed that 72% of the people asked had difficulty locating the blind spots around a big truck.

This May’s campaign was launched with an invitation to reporters to visit a drawing of the outline of the blind spots – front, sides and rear – around a truck. Such demonstrations with cones and tape have been done in past years, but, notes Santerre, “This is the first time we have worked with markings on the ground to represent blind spots.”

The SAAQ has developed other tools designed to help get the message out. They include portable models, PowerPoint demonstrations, brochures, illustrations, animated shorts and guides on how to use these blind spot kits. The SAAQ believes that the problem is most worrying at intersections in urban areas. This is where most accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians happen.

“Pedestrians and cyclists have no protection in the case of a collision. This is why visibility is a determining factor for their safety. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have to always establish visual contact with each other before crossing an intersections,” reminds Nathalie Tremblay, president and chief executive officer of the SAAQ.

The SAAQ offers this advice to pedestrians and cyclists: Avoid being in the blind spots of heavy trucks. Establish eye contact with the driver. If you have not, assume that he hasn’t seen you. Pay attention to the signal lights of vehicles in intersections. Be visible; for example, by wearing bright clothing or reflective stripes.

For truck drivers, the SAAQ reminds them of the following: Watch for and anticipate the movement of people who are circulating around your vehicles. Do not assume that their movements are predictable. Be sure that your side mirrors are in good condition, clean and properly adjusted. In order to see and be seen, keep your headlights on at all times. Signal your intentions in intersections by using your signal lights. Be especially vigilant when making right turns into an intersection and realize that your truck will cut into the adjacent lane or onto the shoulder when making the turn.

The SAAQ announced it will be soliciting the contribution of several partners; ie., transport associations, police and municipalities around Quebec to help get out the message. The SAAQ has also already put on activities at some truck driving schools, and is open to visiting others.

This is not the first time the SAAQ has carried out an “angles mort” program. Way back in 2000, the SAAQ conducted one called “Watch the Blind Spots!” Another such program appears to date to late 2012.

The English page on the SAAQ Web site, last updated on Nov. 28 2012, has advice for motorists overtaking transport trucks: How to safely overtake a truck (don’t return to the right lane until you can see the truck in your inside rear mirror); how to tell if you are following a truck too closely (if you can’t see the side mirrors, you’re too close); and don’t drive alongside trucks (you want to be able to see the driver’s face in the outside rear mirror).

Unfortunately, the original videos on the English page are no longer available.

Good for French visitors to the SAAQ Web site, but unfortunate for English readers, considering the seriousness of the topic, is that the agency updated its French page on blind spots on May 28, 2015. It has graphics showing the blind spots for trucks, transit buses and tour buses, graphics showing people standing in blind spots and an animated short.

The French page also links to more advice to pedestrians, cyclists and truck drivers on how to operate safely and avoid incidents attributable to blind spots. The advice is excellent and no one should be left out of this important discussion.

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  • Carol, thanks for the information. Regarding the comment about the English page, I believe if you “right click” on the mouse button using Google Chrome you can translate the page, albeit maybe not the downloads.