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Why it’s the truck company’s responsibility to prevent bicycle v. truck crashes

November 15, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Lawsuit against Ross Express in New Hampshire says death of man who was hit by a truck on his bicycle was the result of improper training of truck drivers

Christopher Weigl

Today I’d like to share this great article that’s focused on trucking companies’ responsibility in preventing bicycle-truck accidents from the Boston Globe, “Allston cyclist’s family sues trucking company.” 

This article tells the story of Christopher Weigl, a 23-year-old graduate student who was killed on his bicycle by a commercial truck. Weigl’s family has sued the truck driver and Ross Express, the trucking company involved in the crash, arguing that the motor carrier has a responsibility to train its truckers to watch for cyclists in dense urban areas.

The lawsuit highlights the lack of criminal charges in Mr. Weigl’s case and the dire need for the trucking industry to be more proactive in preventing these bicycle-truck crashes through better truck driver training.

There is no such thing as a blind spot if the driver is looking ahead to where his truck will be and is seeing what is there to be seen, as the CDL manual explains. Drivers are taught in truck school to “know your no zone” and the only way to do that is to be looking the 12-15 seconds ahead of where the truck will be.

The lawsuit states that Ross Express failed to properly train its drivers to understand and anticipate the particular type of crash that resulted in Weigl’s death: The “right hook.”

The right-hook is one of the most common types of collisions between commercial trucks and bicycles (same goes for motorcycles), when a vehicle making a right turn collides with a bike traveling straight through an intersection.

And that brings me again to the “no zone” regarding a trucker’s blind spot. As an attorney who has also handled these “right hook” truck accident cases, I know that truck drivers are taught, “there’s no such thing as a blind spot if the driver is looking ahead to where the truck will be moving.” But when a truck driver does not know his “No Zone” because he does not look ahead, then there can be a large blind spot directly in front of and to the immediate left and right of the cab.

I’ve litigated several catastrophic truck accident cases where the negligent truck drivers “didn’t see” bicyclists. Last year, I received a $2.55 million trial verdict in Macomb County, Michigan on behalf of the family of an elderly man who was run over by a truck and killed as he legally crossed the street on his bicycle.

The takeaway? These tragic accidents involving the right hook turn and the no zone or blind spots are almost always preventable.

Crossover mirrors are another thing that would help prevent these bicycle-truck accident deaths. Crossover mirrors are a simple, $100 to $250 one-time cost that largely eliminates the blind spots. The mirrors are designed so that any person who’s at least three feet tall and at least one foot away from the front of the cab can be seen by the truck driver in the mirror.

I was recently interviewed by a reporter in New York on the simple solution of cross over mirrors in preventing these tragic truck accidents.

Additionally, truck companies must take responsibility in the training process to ensure their truckers understand how to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and to obey the bike lane regulations.

Our sincere condolences to the family of Christopher Weigl.

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