Truck Crashes Killing Bicycle Riders in New York and Michigan Raise Serious Safety Questions Regarding the Lack of Side Underride Guards
In most states and jurisdictions, bicyclists are afforded the same rights as the drivers of cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles. In fact, in some states, motorists are forbidden from passing bike riders unless ample minimum clearance is present. However, friction between motorists and bike riders is frequently bubbling just under the surface. Drivers of motor vehicles often become frustrated with the slower moving bike traffic and may engage in risky maneuvers to pass or otherwise get back to traveling at what they deem acceptable speeds.
Unfortunately, these actions can have deadly consequences. Trucks and other motor vehicles consist of thousands of pounds of glass, fiberglass, and steel. A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh up to 70,000 pounds. When these vehicles make contact with a bike rider or a pedestrian, the consequences are often grisly, fatal injuries. In many cases, the bicyclist or pedestrian suffers fatal injuries because he or she is pulled under the vehicle where massive trauma occurs.
Truck Crash in New York City Kills Brooklyn Cyclist
On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Brooklyn resident Leah Sylvain was biking to her job as an artist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Ms. Sylvain was traveling north in a bike lane on Evergreen Avenue when a fuel truck attempted to make a left turn in front of her. Ms. Sylvain was unable to stop and was hit by the center of the truck. She was pulled under the vehicle wheels where she suffered severe trauma to her head.
The driver of the truck remained at the scene of the accident before being taken into custody. Since the driver attepted to cut the bike rider off where the cyclist had the right of way, he was charged with a failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
Truck Crash in Michigan Kills 5, Injures 4 Bicycle Riders
While some cyclists ride because it is an affordable means of urban transportation, others ride for recreational or health reasons. This was the case for a group of nince cyclists who frequently rode together in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area. Unfortunately, this hobby would result in the death of five individuals and severe injuries to the remaining four riders.
The nine cyclists were traveling together in a group. They were riding on the shoulder along the side of a road in Cooper County, Michigan. The nine riders were tragically struck from behind by the driver of a truck. The driver apparently left the scene of the accident but was located not far away by police. It is not clear if the driver was distracted or if other factors played a role in this tragedy. The driver is expected to face criminal charges though charges have not yet been filed.
Truck Side Underride Guards can Mitigate the Consequences of Truck Crashes Involving Pedestrians and Cyclists
While some nations in the European Union and Japan have already enacted mandatory side underride guard legislation, neither Congress nor Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have taken this step. This is unfortunate because research performed in the U.K. and Canada illustrate that these guards are highly effective at reducing pedestrian deaths in accidents involving large trucks.
According to one U.K. based study cited in a report written by the National Research Council of Canada, side underride guards resulted in a 61 percent reduction in fatally injured bicyclists and a 12.8 reduction in the number of cyclists who were seriously injured. When the guard was installed, pedestrians suffering fatal injuries decreased by 20 percent. This benefit was most pronounced when the initial impact point occurred near the front side of the truck.
The Canadian study also utilized computer simulations to assess the mechanics of how the underride guards can reduce pedestrian and cyclist injuries when they are hit by large trucks. The simulation showed that the guards reduced injuries and deaths because they effectively channeled the pedestrian away from the wheels of the truck. In doing so pedestrians still suffered injuries from the initial trauma, but were spared the potentially devastating crushing injuries that the wheels of the truck frequently inflict.
Unfortunately, despite increased levels of bicycling and walking throughout the United States, neither Congress nor FMCSA have taken action. At a minimum, a mandatory side guard requirement should be considered for trucks that travel through cities and other urban areas where pedestrian and bicycle traffic is the greatest. Unfortunately, it is likely that cost concerns regarding the purchase and installation of these guards will continue to result in preventable injuries and deaths.
Injured by a Commercial Truck? Contact an Experience Truck Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious, life-altering injury due to the actions of a commercial truck driver, the lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to fight for you. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with strategic and aggressive truck accident lawyers call (215) 246-9000 today.