It’s a sunny day, but traffic is extremely heavy. John Doe, a 500,000-mile safe driver with a well-established fleet, is proceeding, in first gear at only 5 mph, down the right lane of a relatively narrow, four-lane divided highway. He is just a couple hundred yards from the next intersection, where he has to turn left to make his delivery to a nearby warehouse.
He flips his left turn signal on, then carefully surveys his left side via the mirror. He’s in luck! The only vehicle in the left lane beside his rig, a dark blue sedan, has stopped. He continues crawling along, and, at the right moment, cranks the wheel a bit right to put the tractor in the correct position. He then begins carefully turning his wheel back to the left to create just the right arc of the trailer wheels to clear the corner. This leaves the car in the left lane somewhat behind him. As he continues the turn, he sees that his trailer wheels will comfortably clear any vehicle that might stop in the left lane right at the intersection.
Before he completes the turn, gridlock ahead brings him to a sudden stop. John slips the gear lever into neutral, then glances in his mirror and notices that the rear of his trailer is still in the opposite lane of the road he has just turned onto. Fortunately, there’s no traffic headed in the opposite direction at that particular moment. He pops a Gummy Bear into his mouth, hoping to remain relaxed until traffic begins moving again.
He checks his mirror again out of pure habit and notices that the blue sedan has now started moving and is attempting to make his left turn. He can see that the sedan’s driver is looking to his left so intently that he fails to notice the rear of John’s trailer blocking his way!
John applies the parking brake, jumps out of the cab, and begins running toward the blue car waving his arms. But, before the driver sees him, Jones hears the “whump” of the sedan’s front bumper colliding with one of his rear wheels.
A few days later, Jones is shocked to receive a warning letter from the fleet’s safety director saying the accident had been preventable because he “had failed to properly position his vehicle.” Presumably, the judgment was based on the fact that John had turned his tractor a bit to the right on the relatively narrow road before beginning his turn to the left, thus making it appear that he would be turning right. Jones is riled because he turned in just the right arc – the police report even said the slight jog to the right was “necessary, given the circumstances.”
Jones complained, and the fleet safety supervisor asked the National Safety Council’s Accident Committee to settle the dispute. The committee ruled the accident nonpreventable, based on the police report. It appeared from the evidence that the wide-swing turn had been properly executed and could not have been avoided.