According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, during the ten years preceding 2009, 161 New York City pedestrians were killed in accidents that involved large trucks; another 2,732 were injured.
The problem in many instances? Visibility. The large engine compartment on most commercial trucks means that drivers are unable to see the area directly below and in front of their vehicles. There are numerous recorded instances of pedestrians crossing closely in front of semis and tractor-trailers who have been struck by operators unaware of their presence. These accidents are especially common in crowded, urban areas.
A simple, relatively inexpensive engineering solution is already in use on all trucks used by New York City agencies: crossover mirrors attached to the front end of trucks greatly expand a driver’s view, at a minimum allowing them to see anyone three feet or taller passing in front of the vehicle at a distance of at least one foot. Now, a bill working its way through the state’s legislative process could mandate safety mirrors for all large trucks passing through the city.
Provisions of the Bill
Currently, private truck operators are under no legal obligations to install or utilize front end crossover mirrors in New York. The new bill, S3151, would require the installation of convex mirrors on the front of every truck that meets three criteria.
First, this trucking regulation would only apply to large trucks registered in New York State. Second, only vehicles having a maximum gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more would be affected. Finally, crossover mirrors would only have to be added to those trucks with a conventional cab setup in which the majority of the engine length is forward of the windshield base and the steering wheel hub is located in the forward 25 percent of the vehicle’s length.
The Commissioner of Transportation would retain the authority to exempt certain vehicles if he or she determined that safety mirrors would not increase frontend visibility. In addition, the mirror requirements would only pertain to those trucks operated on highways in cities that have a population in excess of one million.
If the bill is passed, truck operators will have 180 days before the law becomes effective to equip their vehicles with compliant mirrors.
Legislators See Huge Potential for Improving Pedestrian Safety
Crossover mirrors illuminate a gaping blind spot, allowing truck drivers to check for people on foot directly in front of their vehicles. But, not everyone thinks requiring mirrors on trucks is the best solution.
The New York State Motor Truck Association pointed out that truck accidents account for a relatively small proportion of pedestrian accidents in New City, and suggested that a better option would be placing mirrors at intersections to help all motorists see pedestrians, truck drivers included.
Despite such concerns, New York lawmakers have embraced S3151. The bill passed in both the Senate and the New York State Assembly, and was delivered to the governor in early July. It is uncertain whether Governor Cuomo will sign S3151 into law. But, as a measure that was hailed in the Assembly as a way to dramatically lower truck-related deaths and injuries at an equipment cost of around $100 per vehicle, S3151 is likely to soon be codified in New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law.
When a Truck Accident Has Impacted Your Life
Even without the obligations that S3151 is soon expected to impose, it is the responsibility of trucking companies to ensure their vehicles live up to safety standards and their drivers operate in a safe, cautious manner. If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident, you may have legal recourse.
Truck drivers who negligently kill or injure pedestrians (as well as their employers) may be held liable for a number of harms. Accident victims can recover monetary damages for medical bills, wages lost due to an inability to work and pain and suffering. Family members of those killed in accidents may be compensated for additional losses, such as reasonable funeral costs and lost companionship.
If you or someone you love has been harmed in a truck accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as expediently as possible. Your attorney will be able to help you recover the monetary damages you deserve. In addition, by holding irresponsible trucking firms accountable for dangerous oversights, you will be contributing to the creation of safer streets for everyone.