In Boston and cities and towns in the Greater Boston area, some of the biggest dangers to bike riders is being hit by a truck or other large commercial vehicles. These vehicles have large blind spots in the areas in which bike riders tend to be, and while there are side guards that could prevent serious or fatal bike crashes, most trucks do not have them equipped.
According to a recent news article from The Boston Herald, a bike rider was struck and killed by a dump truck in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. The fatal Boston bike crash occurred just before 2 p.m. in an industrial area of Dorchester. Authorities have not issued an charges as of the time of this article an are still continuing to investigate the cause of the accident. Following the crash, the area was blocked off with police crime scene tape and investigators took photos and measurements. The driver of the dump truck stayed at the scene and was cooperating with investigating officers.
Side Guards on Trucks
As our Boston bike crash lawyers can explain, side guards for trucks and truck trialers are designed prevent a car, bicyclist, or pedestrian from being killed in what is known as known as an under-ride accident. In the case of a side guard, it is designed to prevent the victim from going underneath the truck or trailer and getting run over by the massive wheels as this often results in serious personal injury or death. There are also rear under-ride guards on trucks that have standard for decades. These are the red and white stripped bars we see suspended from the bottom edge of the trailer in the rear of the truck. Without this guard, if a car were to run into a semi-tractor trailer from the rear, the car would slip under the trailer, but the bottom edge of the trailer could go through the windshield resulting in the death of the driver and all passengers.
When a truck collides with a bike, it is often from a situation where a truck attempts to make a right turn when a bike rider is positioned to the right of the truck in a bike lane or on the right side of the travel lane if there is no bike lane present. As the truck makes the turn, the bike rider goes under the train and is run over and crushed by the truck’s rear wheels. The side guard is either a cage configuration of a solid sheet of material that physically prevents a bike rider from going under the side of the truck. This is not to say a rider will not be injured if they are hit by a truck with a side guard, but there is a significantly lower risk of death from being crushed under the truck tires.
Side Guard Safety Testing
The Insurance Industry for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHSHLD) is conducting safety testing on current and new side guard designs in crashes involving both cars and trucks. While we typically think of side guards in terms of bike rider safety, there are many accidents in which cars will come into contact with them so this is an important aspect of the testing process as well. The testing shows that a well-constructed side guard will prevent a passenger car from sliding under the side of a truck. The crash tests were conducted at a speed of 35 miles per hour and two different designs were used.
The first design use is known an “AngelWing” and manufactured by a company called Airflow Deflector Inc. This design features a fiberglass reinforced panel attached to a steel frame mounted beneath the truck’s trailer. The company also makes the metal rail type of side guard for city trucks where airflow is not a concern due to travel at slower speeds in an urban setting.
In tests with this system, a car hitting the guard at 35 miles per hour did some damage to the side guard, but the car did not slide under the trailer. The second type of guard testing was not a true side guard, but designed only to prevent airflow under the trailer. This is supposed to help reduce wind sheer and improve fuel mileage. These are becoming much more common on trucks these days since there is no requirement for protective side guards on trucks in most areas and everyone is concerned about reducing fuel costs.
In impact tests with a non-protective side guard, the car essentially pushed the side guard out of the way and ran under the trailer. The edge of the trailer contacted the windshield of the car and killed the simulated occupants. It was evident from these tests that a side guard will save lives and prevent underrides. According to safety test data compiled by the IIHSHLD, there are more side impact truck crashes each year than rear impact crashes, yet only the rear impact guards are currently required.
The testing agency also noted that these guards can be built onto new trucks, but they can also be added quite easily to existing trucks. In the case of a semi-tractor trailer, without a side guard, 62 percent of the length on the side of the truck is left unprotected by the wheels, and with the guards, only 28 percent of the side of the truck is susceptible to an underride accident.
While we are primary dealing with bike accidents in this blog, an effort to protect cars is likely to carry more weight federally since there are so many more cars on the road. If bike riders will also benefits from a mandate requiring side guards on trucks, the reason the change was made will be of little consequence as it will be preventing serious injury or death of bike riders in Boston and around the nation.
With the non-impact resistant side guards also included in the testing, this should help dissuade any arguments that those much cheaper devices are just as effective in terms of preventing vehicles and bike riders from getting trapped under truck tires resulting in serious personal injury or death.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 617-777-7777.
Cyclist struck, killed by dump truck, November 4, 2017, By Brain Dowling, The Boston Herald
More Blog Entries:
Damages in Boston Bike Crash Lawsuits, July 8, 2017, Boston Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog