On college campuses and in cities throughout the United States, new regulations are aimed at preventing pedestrian and bicycle collisions involving trucks. Truck crashes are among the most deadly for bike riders and walkers, especially if the bicyclist or pedestrian becomes trapped underneath a truck.
While some locations and institutions move forward to avoid one of the most common causes of fatalities in truck collisions with bikes and pedestrians, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appears to be making no effort to impose an important safety requirement. Next City wonders when NHTSA and trucking companies throughout the United States will embrace a simple safety device to save lives. An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer knows many trucking companies will wait until the law requires them to install safety devices, so NHTSA should act sooner rather than later.
Side Guards Are a Life Saving Device and Should Be Required
New proposals aimed at reducing deaths in pedestrian/truck crashes relate to the installation of side guards. Side guards are designed to prevent a pedestrian or bicycle rider from getting trapped underneath a truck. The gap between front and rear wheels of a truck makes walkers and bikers susceptible to being stuck underneath when a crash happens.
Cities including Boston, Portland, Washington D.C. and New York, have recognized the importance of side guards in preventing pedestrian and bicycle rider deaths. Limited regulations have been passed in these cities, the scope of which vary. Some require only city-owned trucks to use side guards while others also impose the mandate on trucks contracting with the city. Regardless, efforts are being made to ensure more trucks have side guards. The University of Washington also mandated the installation of side guards on all vehicles owned by its campus fleet.
There is solid foundation for requiring use of side guards on tall and heavy commercial trucks. In 1986, the United Kingdom imposed a mandate requiring the majority of commercial trucks to have side guards installed and the European Union followed with a similar requirement in 1989. Following the UK's rule, a 61 percent decline in bike rider deaths and 20 percent decline in pedestrian deaths occurred in relevant truck crashes.
The cost of installing these side guards is not prohibitive. University of Washington estimated $1,500 for installation of side guards on each vehicle. Many trucking companies, however, do not have them - and they are not federally mandated. This could change, if NHTSA takes action. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged NHTSA to impose a national regulation more than a year ago, but no progress has been made.
Pedestrians and bicyclists are most likely to be caught under truck wheels after right or left hook accidents, when a truck turning left or right hits the biker or walker who is crossing a street or going straight. In five years, 556 pedestrians and bikers were killed in these crashes. Many lives could be saved if trucking companies simply installed side guards to keep people from being pulled beneath trucks.