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Could Truck Side Guards Save Lives?

Truck Side GuardsMost of Europe require side guards on semi trucks, to protect pedestrians, bike riders and motorcyclists. Boston, New York City and Portland, OR have passed legislation requiring side guards.

NYC also offers incentives to private businesses that install them. However, many other states and cities have been slow to adopt similar measures.

Over 100 American pedestrians and cyclists die each year in a side impact truck accident. Can a fairly inexpensive side guard save lives?

What is a Side Guard?

Increasingly, trucks share the road with motorcyclists, pedestrians and bike riders. Due to a truck’s high ground clearance and large blind spots, these road users are particularly at risk for crush injuries. (And, crush injuries from an 80,000-pound semi-truck are almost always fatal.)

Truck side guards protect cyclists and pedestrians by covering the space between a truck’s front and rear wheels. This prevents pedestrians and cyclists from being swept underneath a truck and crushed during a side impact. Side guards can be retrofitted onto older semi trucks.

According to the National Transportation Systems Center, studies have shown significant reductions in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in areas with mandatory side guards.

For example, truck-related cyclist fatalities dropped in the United Kingdom by 61% after side guards became mandatory. Pedestrian fatalities dropped by 21%.

Side guards (and a similar technology, side skirts) may also improve a truck’s fuel economy.

Side Skirts versus Side Guards

Side skirts are built to improve a truck’s aerodynamics, with the goal of improving fuel efficiency. While some of side skirts can help protect pedestrians and cyclists in side impacts, not all side skirts offer this protection.

Many side skirts are made of plastic and fiberglass and are too flexible to protect against a crush injury.

Why Aren’t Side Guards Mandatory?

Federal laws require semi trucks to have rear underride guards, which protect cars during rear-end collisions. In 2013 and 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) formally recommended that trucks also carry side guards.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is still evaluating the need for side guards. It is uncertain when the NHTSA will conclude its research.

The Canadian Government also investigated the benefits of side guards and decided not to make them mandatory. While the Canadian report acknowledged that European fatalities decreased with side guard implementation, it believed that other factors contributed to the decreased fatalities. (These factors include use of dedicated bike lanes and better roads.) Australia came to a similar conclusion when evaluating side guards.

Some argue that mandatory side guards are too expensive to implement in the United States. The National Transportation Systems Center estimates that the guards cost roughly $840 per truck. Trucking companies argue that the cost of side guards outweighs the potential safety benefits.

Regardless of industry pushback, both the National Transportation Systems Center and the NTSB continue to advocate for mandatory side guards in the United States.

While wait for the NHTSA’s decision, cities can require side guards on municipally owned and contracted trucks.

Are There Other Safety Precautions Trucks Can Take?

Crossover mirrors, which help with front and side visibility, may prevent side impacts.

Truck manufacturers and technology companies are also working on camera and sensor-based systems that could help truck drivers avoid side collisions. It is unclear whether these advanced systems could be retrofitted. (For more information about technology and safety, see our post “How Technology is Changing the Trucking Industry.”)

What Happens When There is a Fatal Truck Accident?

A fatal accident is tragic, especially when the accident could have been prevented. If you have lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you should contact an experienced truck accident lawyer immediately.

Under Florida law, the family of a trucking accident victim can receive wrongful death compensation. The victim’s family can sue the truck (or trucking company) for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages and
  • Pain and suffering.

Depending on the situation, the victim’s family may also be entitled to no-fault benefits and uninsured/underinsured (UM) benefits.

No-fault benefits may pay for your loved one’s medical bills and lost wages. UM benefits (although rare in trucking claims) supplement a family’s compensation where a negligent driver did not carry enough insurance.

Consult with a Truck Accident Lawyer in Florida

You also need an experienced lawyer to evaluate your family’s claims and help determine who is liable. This may include multiple claims and lawsuits against multiple defendants.

(For example, the manufacturer of the vehicle may be responsible for a product liability claim.) Your case may involve both Florida and federal law. (For more information, see our article about the complexities of truck accident law.)

More importantly, a lawyer can work to get your family the maximum compensation for its loss. Remember, the insurance company’s job is to minimize your compensation.

You cannot rely on an insurance adjuster for good advice. You do not want to resolve a trucking accident case on your own. Contact us for a free consultation today.

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