MAN Truck & Bus


Protecting children: how to prevent accidents that occur whilst turning

Every year, there are casualties involving cyclists and pedestrians colliding with trucks or buses. To provide better protection for children in particular, MAN employees don’t just conduct “blind spot training” at schools. MAN has also developed smart assistance systems that prevent accidents. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann recently examined one of them in Nuremberg.

A girl and a woman sit in the cab of a red trcuk. The girl gestures with her hands a distance.
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Change of perspective It is only when children are in the driver's seat that they really understand that truck drivers cannot see them in their blind spot.

After climbing into the driver’s seat, eight year old Anni grips the steering wheel as if she'd grown up driving a truck. From this vantage point, in the cab of a MAN TGM, the street below suddenly seems far away. In the right rear-view mirror Anni can see the basketball hoop in the playground at her Montessori school in Kaufering. Then she looks over to Carolin Grassot, who is sitting in the passenger seat beside her.

Carolin Grassot and her husband Jouan Grassot, who both work at MAN – she as an engineer, he as a quality manager – have just spent time in the classroom teaching Anni and her fellow pupils that a 40-ton truck weighs around the same as 1,000 pupils of their age. And now Anni herself is sitting at the wheel of a similarly heavy giant. Carolin Grassot turns towards the young truck driver. “Anni, just imagine that there are boxes of food stored in the loading area behind you, which you have to deliver on time to the kitchen in a restaurant. You want to turn right at the traffic light, so you use the indicator. Next to the passenger door there’s a group of children waiting impatiently for the crossing light to finally turn green. It’s hot. The kids want to run off, they’re already thinking of the lido. Now your light and the pedestrian traffic light turn green. Please take a look in your right-hand mirror. Can you set off?”

Like the other Montessori pupils who take the wheel of this more than three-metre high MAN truck on this July day, Anni also hesitates. The girl knows very well that Jouan Grassot is standing close by with her fellow pupils, but she can’t see anyone. The children are waiting between two red and white barrier tapes that are tied to the right exterior mirror to mark out the blind spot. This area is invisible to Anni from her driver's seat. No matter how hard she concentrates on the right rear-view mirror, all she can see in it is how the wind is twitching the net on a basketball hoop. Anni looks at Carolin Grassot and says: “I really can’t see them from up here.” The engineer nods: “That’s why the blind spot makes turning so dangerous.”

Greater safety through training courses 

The ADAC reports that around 70 cyclists die each year in Germany due to collisions with trucks, and 665 suffer severe injuries. One in three of these is due to an accident whilst turning and involves people in blind spots. The Bavarian Interior Ministry states that in both 2019 and 2020 there was one casualty involving a child in Bavaria alone. The Grassots commit their free time to changing this by improving road safety. In 2019 and 2021, around 200 children at the school in Kaufering have been made aware of the dangers posed by road traffic.

MAN employees also take part in the campaign “Sicher zur Schule – sicher nach Hause” (Safely to school, safely back home), which has already seen expert traffic wardens and trainers from the MAN ProfiDrive training facility visit numerous primary schools in Bavaria during autumn 2020. MAN is currently coordinating further dates with the Bavarian district traffic wardens to continue this campaign.

MAN is committed to traffic safety on multiple levels. In addition to information events in schools, this notably involves equipping buses and trucks with smart assistance systems that prevent accidents caused by blind spots. This is precisely the task of the new MAN OptiView mirror replacement system, which can be ordered from October 2021 for trucks in the new truck generation will be available in January 2022. A camera system and internal displays replace the conventional rear-view mirrors and they assist drivers to obtain all-round visibility in difficult driving situations – such as potential collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. The additionally available turning assistant is also integrated into the display concept. Viktor Schaub from Product Marketing at MAN demonstrated an innovation on buses – a turning assistant with pedestrian detection that provides active warning – at a meeting with Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) and community action group “Sicher zur Schule – sicher nach Hause” (Safely to school, safely back home) in Nuremberg.

„Everything that improves drivers’ visibility and warns them of danger in good time will increase safety on the way to school.“  

Wolfang Prestele
Managing Director of the "Safe to School - Safe to Home" Community Campaign

How the assistance systems work 

Viktor Schaub demonstrates the functionality of the new turning assistant on a MAN Lion’s Intercity, an almost 13-metre long coach that is frequently deployed in school traffic. Two cameras mounted on the exterior of the school bus capture the 36-year-old MAN employee as he walks in the blind spot to approach the vehicle. The cameras send a warning to the driver's compartment.

Interior Minister Herrmann is already sat there. With both hands on the steering wheel, he notices how a little yellow figure illuminates on an oval display on the right of the front windscreen. There is a peeping noise and the figure illuminates in red as Schaub walks into the hazard zone. Sensors have detected the risk of a collision. The minister listens attentively as Heinrich Degenhardt from MAN ProfiDrive explains to him how the turning assistant can be combined with other camera systems. Viktor Schaub adds that in future the turning assistant will also automatically brake in the event of an impending collision with cyclists or pedestrians. “Top marks”, the minister replies. “I believe what MAN has developed here is excellent.”

Wolfang Prestele, managing director of the community action group “Sicher zur Schule – sicher nach Hause”, states that he is placing great hope in “these new systems”. There are far too many accidents, especially whilst turning. “Everything that improves drivers’ visibility and warns them of danger in good time will increase safety on the way to school.”

Funding for modern vehicle equipment

Turning assistance systems are required by law in the EU for all new trucks and buses from 2024. But the aim is to create early incentives so that transport companies and freight forwarders are already equipping their vehicles with the new technology, explains Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann after getting off the bus. Even now, the Federal Ministry of Transport is providing funding of up to 1,500 euros for such equipment. Ultimately, Hermann states, every child that gets hurt on the way to school is one too many.

MAN employees Jouan and Carolin Grassot also see it that way. They have enabled one child after another at the school in Kaufering to change their perspective. “Sure, it's an insane amount of effort”, says the 39-year-old truck engineer. She and her husband have spent many hours preparing, are on location for a total of four days and personally drove the truck to the Montessori school. Yet when she sees how it “clicks” for the children as they first sit at the steering wheel and truly comprehend what and how dangerous the blind spot really is, then she knows that the trip with her husband was worthwhile.

So what would Anni do the next time she wants to cross the street in front of a bus or truck? “Wait until the vehicle has completed its turn?”, asks Anni. “Spot on”, Carolin Grassot answers and smiles. “You wait, keep your distance and also warn other children who haven’t yet learned what you just have.”

Text   Anna Gauto
Photos   Dominik Gigler


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