Saturday 22 October 2016

Cyclists: if you can't see the driver, the driver can't see you

* Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines the hazards for drivers and vulnerable road users

Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30

There is still a need to educate cyclists about the dangers of blind spots for truck drivers
There is still a need to educate cyclists about the dangers of blind spots for truck drivers

THE RSA has rolled out a new campaign this week to mark Bike Week (June 13 - 21) targeting cyclists and truck drivers. The aim is to highlight the 'blind spots' around trucks.

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Due to size and design, a truck has significant blind spots that present a danger to vulnerable road users.

A driver's field of vision, within a cab, is limited; the areas immediately in front, behind and to the left of the vehicle are often completely hidden from view and cyclists and pedestrians are at an increased risk of being struck.

Between 2007 and May 2015, 54 cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists were killed in collisions involving trucks, in our towns and cities. Collisions involving trucks accounted for 20pc of urban fatalities among these road user groups.

We as a country have taken some really progressive steps to improve the vision of a truck driver by requiring extra mirrors to be fitted on the cab.

Since 2007 all trucks over 7,500kg entering the fleet are fitted with a range of mirrors, including one to the front, to reduce blind spots around the vehicle.

In 2009 it became mandatory for blind-spot mirrors to be fitted on the passenger side of trucks registered from January 2000.

A retrofit programme was successfully completed throughout Europe, so all vehicles in this age bracket now have the additional mirrors. However, since October 2012 all trucks over 7,500kg, regardless of age must be fitted with a front mirror, often called a Cyclops on the front of the cab. Ireland led the way on the retro-fitting of such mirrors. Only now is it being considered by Transport for London's 'Safer Lorry Scheme' for introduction on September 1, 2015.

The annual roadworthiness test for trucks in Ireland checks for these mirrors. These steps have helped halve the number of deaths linked to the blind spot issue.

However, the problem hasn't been eliminated and there is still a need to educate cyclists and truck drivers. Cyclists need to be aware of the fact that if you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you.

A cyclist should never ride along the kerb-side of a truck, especially if it's turning left. Truck drivers too need to be aware that the mirrors on their cab will not always give them a total view of any cyclists that may be riding alongside or behind the vehicle. So drivers should look out for cyclists at junctions and especially when turning left.

Collision investigations have shown that pedestrians are at risk too. Crossing the road in slow moving urban traffic too close to the area immediately in front of a truck, which is normally hidden from the driver's view, may well have been a significant contributory factor in the deaths of pedestrians, particularly older pedestrians.

Drivers need to position the mirrors correctly or they wouldn't be able to detect pedestrians or cyclists in the space immediately in front of the cab.

Changes to truck dimensions, especially the cab itself, that will give drivers increased direct vision received final approval from the European Parliament in March. When implemented they should provide an opportunity to eliminate a number of the dangerous blind spots around trucks.

There has been interest recently around the use of sensor technology to alert the driver if a vulnerable road user is moving close to, or is in a hazardous position next to, their vehicle. While many types of such devices exist, a study is currently being undertaken by the European Commission into the feasibility of mandating such Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection (PCD) systems.

In the meantime why not check out our new campaign on YouTube? And remember, if you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you.

Indo Motoring

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