Reducing Truck vs. Bicycle Fatalities With Side Guards

There are perhaps no two modes of transportation more mismatched in a crash than a large truck and a bicycle. That’s why so many truck vs. bicycle accidents turn fatal. bicyclist7

These large trucks – 18-wheelers, box trucks, dump trucks and garbage trucks – make up a small fraction of vehicles on the road. And yet, they involve a disproportionate number of accidents that kill both bicyclists and pedestrians.

The problem is worse in larger cities, like West Palm Beach, where there are a growing number of cyclists and generally more pedestrians than in rural areas or highways.

One study in New York City found that while trucks account for less than 4 percent of the vehicles on the road, they were involved in nearly one-third of all fatal bicycle accidents between 1996 and 2003. They were also cited in more than 12 percent of all pedestrian deaths between 2002 and 2006.

Similar statistics have been cited across the country, and the trend appears to be growing. The percentage of bicyclist deaths overall is climbing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that where cycling deaths were 1.9 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2010, that figure shot up to 2.3 percent by 2013.

Meanwhile, an increase in e-commerce means evermore trucks are venturing into urban and suburban neighborhoods than ever before. Plus, many cities are focused on increasing the number of bicycling and walking advocacy by putting in bike lanes, introducing bike sharing programs and focusing on “Complete Streets” models that promote alternative modes of transportation.

All of this means cyclists and trucks drivers are more likely than ever to cross paths.

Addressing safety must be a multi-pronged approach. For example, trucking companies would do well to implement better driver training and restrict the size of trucks granted access to large thoroughfares. Also among the suggestions are designing safer streets and imposing tougher punishments for drivers who accidentally kill bicyclists or pedestrians.

But there is another potential solution that  is gaining traction as well: Side guards on large trucks.

One of the biggest dangers in a truck vs. bicycle accident is that the impact of a collision will result in a person’s body falling underneath the truck. This puts the person’s body in the direct path of the wheels. Inevitably, the results can be catastrophic.

One possible way to prevent this from happening is side guards.

These are either panels or several bars that run between the two wheel sets that would serve to prevent a pedestrian or cyclist from falling underneath the truck.

Of course, they won’t prevent a crash. But much the way seat belts do, they may be able to reduce the severity of injuries for bicyclists or pedestrians involved in these crashes. The intention is to take a crash that might otherwise result in a death and reduce the likelihood of that outcome.

One such case was reported in Boynton Beach in August 2014. At that time, an 18-year-old bicyclist was riding home from the gym when he was cut off by a garbage truck. The teen fell underneath the truck and was run over by the rear wheels. The trucker thought he’d hit a pot hole and didn’t stop.

Federal law doesn’t require side guards, but a number of cities have been installing them on government vehicles. Among those are Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Ore.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Collision Course: With Wary Eye on Big Trucks, Bike Riders Seek Safe Space on City Streets, June 30, 2015, By Bridget Huber, FairWarning.org

More Blog Entries:

Study: Traffic Deaths Up Ahead of Summer, June 11, 2015, West Palm Beach Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog