Side guards installed on trucks prevent pedestrians from going underneath the vehicle. There are gaps between front and rear wheels on large commercial trucks and a walker or biker can become trapped underneath. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney knows a pedestrian or bicycle rider who becomes trapped under a commercial truck is likely to suffer death or permanent and life-changing injuries.
While side guards are an important safety feature, many trucks throughout the United States do not have them. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urges the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to impose a federal regulation requiring installation of side guards on new commercial vehicles if the trucks have a weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds. NHTSA has not yet acted on this recommendation and lives are being put in danger unnecessarily every day.
Side Guards Could Save Lives in Sideswipe Accidents
Pedestrians and bicycle riders could be trapped under trucks with large wheels after any collision, but this is especially likely to occur in left hook accidents and right hook accidents. Left and right hook collisions involve a truck driver making a turn and swiping a pedestrian or bicycle rider who is going across the street or who is traveling straight. There were 556 pedestrians and bike riders killed over five years because of side swipe accidents in the U.S., according to Next City.
Recognizing the danger of side swipe accidents, both the European Union and the United Kingdom imposed mandate installation of side guards on most commercial trucks. The requirements went into effect in 1989 and 1986, respectively. When the United Kingdom put its ban into place, 61 percent fewer bicyclists and 20 percent fewer pedestrians were killed in collisions with commercial trucks.
Some cities in the United States have followed the lead of the European Union and UK. Boston, Washington D.C., and Portland have limited requirements mandating use of side guards on either city vehicles, or vehicles contracting with the city (regulations vary). The University of Washington imposed a requirement to install side guards on campus vehicles to protect students who walk or bicycle on campus.
The cost of installing side guards on commercial vehicles is an estimated $1,500 per vehicle. NTSB wants NHTSA to pass a uniform federal regulation to ensure these important safety devices are installed. While NHTSA was informed of the NTSB’s position last year, no efforts have been made thus far to move forward with safeguarding pedestrians and bike riders from one of the most deadly types of truck collisions.
Trucking companies should consider installation of side guards, even absent federal or state requirement. Truckers and trucking companies are liable for losses caused by negligence, and wrongful death damages can be significantly greater than damages for minor injuries. If deaths and permanent injuries can be avoided, pedestrians will be better off and trucking companies will be doing themselves a favor by installing the devices.