By Scott Felthousen, Drive It Home
As experienced drivers, many of us have seen tractor-trailers with the message, “Stay Out of the No Zone,” wrapped around them during our travels. Still, many of us may wonder, what is the ‘No Zone’ and how can we help our teen drivers understand what a truck’s ‘No Zone’ is?
In my last blog, I suggested that one of the best things parents can teach their teens is to make the interaction between their car and a semi-truck as short as possible. The number one reason for this is a truck’s blind area; being in that blind area makes the car driver, experienced or not, vulnerable.
One of my favorite lessons from the commercial driver’s license class I help teach at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, KY is showing the student truck drivers exactly what the blind area is around their truck. You can do the same with your car. I guarantee the lesson will open your eyes.
Here’s how that lesson works. I ask the students to give me their best estimates on how big a blind area is in relation to an average-size, one-family house. The consensus seems to be that 1,800 square feet is a fair number. Next, I pose the question, “how many houses do you think could fit in the blind area of a small car? What about a truck?”
Usually, the guesses for the car are well less than the size of a house, which is true. The guesses for the truck are usually in the three-to-four-house range.
Using my car, a 2012 Ford Focus, I have a student sit in the driver’s seat. They adjust the seat and the rearview mirror. Next, I have another student start at the driver’s side of the car, centered with the driver, and walk backwards slowly until the driver can only see that student’s toes.
The average is about four feet. Then I have another student do the same thing on the passenger’s side. It ends up being about eight feet. Another student helps at the front of the car going backwards until the driver can see their toes. This usually ends up being five feet.
Then the rear of the car. I let the student use the rear view mirror as their classmate walks backwards. The distance ends up being nearly 30 feet.
Adding the size of the car to those numbers ends up giving nearly 600 feet of blind area around the vehicle. That number surprises all of my students and they begin to rethink their original guesses about the semi.
“The blind area of that car is bigger than my living room,” has been the most humorous reply I have heard. But, we move to the truck for the same drill. The students’ roles stay the same.
Over the six classes in which I have used this lesson, we have found the blind area around the semi to be nearly 12,000 square feet. That’s almost seven houses and a complete eye-opener for anyone in attendance of the lesson.
That total blind area is the reason it is so important to not drive on either side of or behind a truck for extended periods. However, you should still teach your teens not to be scared of the blind area, just to be very aware of it and to not spend too much time there. If your teen can see the truck driver in his or her mirror than the driver can see your teen. He is more likely than not waiting for your teen to give him some room so he can do the same for other drivers on the road.