It was heart-breaking to watch the TV news coverage last week, the scenes following a cement truck crash which killed a cyclist in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. The 69-year-old victim, a librarian in Brookline, was hit at the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Park Drive on Friday afternoon.
As State Police investigate the fatal bicycle accident, we should all be concerned about trucks. If you are a pedestrian or cyclist in Boston or Cambridge, you have likely witnessed a truck crash or near crash. Or felt the sheer terror of a truck too close.
At times, it is hard not to travel in fear of trucks in Massachusetts, especially in Boston and Cambridge. One very upsetting moment came earlier this month, when a city truck reportedly plowed over a sidewalk in Chinatown, hitting a pedestrian. The truck ultimately smashed into the side of Liu Yi Shou Hotspot Boston, which is located at Washington and Kneeland streets, near Tufts Medical Center. The pedestrian was treated for non-life threatening injuries while the restaurant sustained heavy structural damage.
Because trucks are heavy-weight vehicles, drivers must be properly trained and use reasonable care when operating. Just as in Chinatown, truck crashes can cause injuries to pedestrians. Cyclists are also vulnerable, especially when crossing intersections near trucks.
In Massachusetts, the law specifically addresses a truck driver’s responsibility when making right turns at intersections near cyclists. Truck drivers must make the turn at a “safe distance,” at a “speed that is reasonable and proper,” according to the law. To do this in Boston, truck drivers have to check. Large vehicles are set up much higher than cyclists. Drivers need to use mirrors and specifically looking down at the bike lane before turning.
When a driver neglects to check, there can be serious consequences. They can end up cutting a cyclist off in a right hook accident. This can lead to severe injuries and often death.
Our attorneys have extensive experience in investigating truck crashes which have seriously injured or killed cyclists.
Last year, Attorney Ron Gluck of Breakstone, White & Gluck settled a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a cyclist who was killed by a truck driver in a hit-and-run crash. The driver hit our 38-year-old client at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street. Read about the case in Boston Magazine.
Truck Accident Statistics
- Nationwide, fatal truck crashes have increased by 3 percent, from 4,704 to 4,213, according to the 2016 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
- Truck drivers were speeding in 6.9 percent of truck crashes involving a fatality. They were engaged in distractions in 6.1 percent of fatal truck crashes. Failure to yield the right of way resulted in 4 percent of truck crashes resulting in a wrongful death. These were the leading causes; violations were not reported in many of the accidents (2016 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2016).
- In 2016, 840 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a 2 percent rise over 2015. More significantly, this continued a trend of near two percent increases and marked a 25-year high for fatal cyclist accidents in the U.S. Cyclists age 55-59 and 60-64 had the highest fatality rates. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2016 Data: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists).
- Single-vehicle truck crashes killed 85 cyclists in 2016, just about 10 percent of all traffic deaths (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts).
How Cyclists Are Being Injured By Trucks
When cyclists are killed in collisions with motor vehicles, they are most likely to be hit by the front of the vehicle, according to the NHTSA FARS data. Cyclists are hit from the front in 78 percent of all cyclist vs. motor vehicle deaths, including in 89 percent of accidents involving cars and 83 percent of accidents involving light trucks, SUVs, pick-up vehicles or vans.
The numbers change when you look at fatal accidents involving large trucks and cyclists. While 48 percent of cyclists who died were hit from the front of large trucks, 22 percent were struck by the right side of a truck, while 9 percent were hit on the left side. Another 7 percent were by the back of the truck.
Truck Sideguard Ordinances and Legislation in Massachusetts
Some cities and states want to encourage truck safety by passing ordinances that require trucks to be equipped with side guards. This covers the area between a truck’s wheels, where cyclists and pedestrians can become trapped. Two cities in Massachusetts have already passed ordinances for city-contracted trucks and large vehicles. The ordinances also require trucks to use convex mirrors to help them see blind spots.
Boston was the first U.S. city to pass an ordinance in 2014. Somerville has since followed, passing the Somerville Ordinance to Safeguard Vulnerable Road Users. A statewide law could be next. A proposal now on Beacon Hill is asking lawmakers to mandate side guards on all city- and state-owned vehicles by 2020. Contractors would be required to meet the new standard by 2022.
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Breakstone, White & Gluck has more than 100 years combined experience representing victims in personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice cases.
If you or someone in your family has been injured, contact us today for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.