Over the past few years, we’ve seen a series of devastating accidents in Chicago and nearby cities where cyclists were killed after colliding with right-turning trucks. The City of Chicago responded to this by passing a new ordinance requiring city-contracted trucks to install side guards and additional mirrors.
The ordinance is to be implemented in phases over the next three years, but in the meantime, the same type of crashes continue to result in tragedy. Just this month, a bicyclist was fatally hit by a truck turning right at Madison and Halsted. A bike helmet and a pair of sunglasses were found under the truck, highlighting the fact that the large vehicle did not have a side guard.
The recent accident has prompted advocates and motorists to call for more truck safety measures, especially concerning more vulnerable commuters such as bicyclists.
Truck Side Guards And Other Safety Gear
Side guards, also called lateral protective devices, are panels that are installed on each side of a large truck between its front and rear wheels. These panels are designed to prevent underride accidents – collisions where a smaller vehicle or even people get thrown into the space underneath the truck.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that from 1994 to 2015, a total of 4,195 people have died in truck underride crashes. Of these, 1,1592 were in collisions where the impact occurred at the side of the truck. Within the same period, Illinois had 143 underride-related fatalities, 59 of which were from side-impact collisions.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has conducted crash tests and found that side underride guards can save lives. This has also been seen in the United Kingdom, where truck side protection is mandated and is credited for a 20-percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities and a 61-percent decrease in bicyclist fatalities in truck side-impact crashes. Cities in the US, such as Boston and New York, have since introduced laws for large trucks to install the equipment.
In Chicago, the side guard ordinance also includes a requirement for crossover mirrors and convex mirrors to help reduce trucks’ blind spots. A crossover mirror is mounted on the front fender or hood of a truck to enable its driver to see anyone who is closely in front of the vehicle. Meanwhile, a convex mirror installed on each side of the truck’s cab provides a wide-angle view of the vehicle’s sides.
Though the ordinance increases safety around certain trucks, advocates say that it should apply not just to city-contracted vehicles but to all large trucks in the metro.
Dangers For Cyclists At Intersections
The fatal crash at Halsted showed not just the need for expanded truck safety but also for improved cyclist and pedestrian protection on Chicago streets. That particular accident occurred next to a construction site, and cyclists have observed that the bike lane there has disappeared, forcing them to squeeze on the side of the road between vehicle traffic and pedestrians.
This adds to the general flurry at the intersection with Madison Street, where cars share the road with buses, cement trucks, and 18-wheelers. Even with the on-going construction, this crossing has no cautionary signs, no detours, and no traffic officers. Pedestrians even have to dart around vehicles that are stuck on crosswalks.
Sadly, Halsted and Madison is only one of the several chaotic intersections in Chicago where pedestrians are more vulnerable. Some of the other crossings that have been noted to be riskier for pedestrians are West North Avenue and North Damen Avenue at Wicker Park; North Cicero and West Chicago Avenue; and North Lincoln and West Fullerton Avenue at Lincoln Park.
The vulnerability of cyclists is quite pronounced on streets like these. Bicycles are especially at risk when a larger vehicle is trying to make a right turn in front of them. When that vehicle is a 10,000-pound truck, the truck’s blind spots and massive weight greatly heighten the danger of a collision. And since bicyclists are not protected by any kind of metal frame or crumple zone, they often end up with catastrophic injuries.
Recourse For Truck Accident And Bike Crash Victims
There is definitely room for improvement when it comes to truck safety and bicycle safety in Chicago. For now, people who have suffered from truck or bike accidents may seek compensation through existing legal options. If you or someone in your family has been hurt in a truck wreck or a bicycle crash, talk to us at Willens Law to know what options are available to you. Call us at (888) 445-1446 today.