Semi trucks (18 wheelers, big rigs, tractor trailer trucks, etc.) are known to be dangerous and a high risk for fatal motor vehicle accidents. Lots of research is done in this country, both by the public and private sectors, to study the dangers of heavy commercial trucks sharing the roads with drivers and passengers in smaller vehicles like sedans, minivans, and motorcycles. We monitor these studies as well as representing folks who have been the victim of a serious truck crash.
However, a new perspective on the dangers of these big rig semi trucks was brought into focus earlier this month at a national online conference. One that does not get addressed often enough, and which may be surprising.
This online seminar, or webinar on November 18 was part of the year-long “Mayors’ Challenger for Safer People, Safer Streets,” started in January 2015 by Secretary Anthony Foxx of the Department of Transportation. This “Mayors’ Challenge” campaign is based upon the DOT Policy Statement of Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation (read that here) with its goal of making urban streets safer for people on foot and people of all ages who are riding bicycles for fun or transport.
The focus of this national webinar? The very real — and growing — problem of fatal large truck crashes that involve bicyclists or pedestrians.
At the seminar, federal studies were discussed by the Department of Transportation. This research delves into big rig commercial truck crashes involving people walking on the roadside (pedestrians) and those riding bikes (bicyclists).
It’s shocking how many people are hit and hurt or killed in a semi truck crash while walking or bike-riding. They’re not even in a car and they are vulnerable to a fatal commercial truck crash!
Even more shocking: the number of pedestrians and bicyclists being fatally hit by these large trucks is rising at a faster rate than truck crash deaths overall. Here in Indiana and Illinois, we need to be aware of this rising danger even though the highest risk for these sorts of fatal accidents may be lower in the upcoming winter weather months.
FMCSA Study: Truck Crash Fatalities for Pedestrians and Bicyclists Rising Even Faster than Other Large Truck Fatal Crash Rates
According to a study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its Office of Analysis, Research and Technology, in 2009, 259 people died in truck-pedestrian accidents. That same year, 56 died in a big rig semi truck crash while riding a bicycle. The last year with complete data for the large truck fatalities in the U.S.A. is 2013. According to FMCSA, in 2013 there were 338 deaths of pedestrians in truck-pedestrian accidents. That year, 78 bicyclists died in truck accidents.
Tally these statistics, and FMCSA research reveals a 30% jump in truck-pedestrian accidents and a 39% jump in truck-bicyclist accidents where the pedestrian or bike rider die as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
Large Truck Crashes in Fatal Accidents With Bike Riders and People Walking Near the Road
At the November seminar, statistics confirmed that there is a skew in the comparison of commercial truck crashes and other kinds of motor vehicle accidents, one where large trucks drive around 9% of total miles driven in this country but are responsible for 13% of annual deaths due to traffic accidents.
Of course, there was some consideration of the causes of these large truck crashes and whether or not the pedestrian or bicyclist was the cause of the truck crash where they died. For instance, in the 2013 large truck data involving deaths of people riding bikes, the young age of the bike rider was considered a factor. In 12.8% of these fatal accidents, the “bicyclist was younger than 15 years old” was given as a factor, alongside things like “it was raining” (6.4%). (This despite many tween and teen bicyclists being very adept at riding that bike.)
Federal Recommendations to Keep Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safer from Large Truck Crashes
In 2010, DOT published its list of recommendations to local governments, along with state governments and members of the private sector like professional associations and community organziations, to take action including the following to make people safe as their ride bikes or walk alongside city streets:
1. It’s encouraged to think of walking and bicycling as means of transportation just like driving a car or taking a bus. This is especially true in roadway design (bike paths, sidewalks, etc.).
2. There should be safe and connected routes for people who walk or ride bikes. People should be able to walk or bike from home to work or school or the store or nearby park as safely as they can drive.
3. Bridges should to be targeted and rehabilitated as needed to accommodate walkers and bicyclists alongside the motor vehicle traffic.
4. Snow should be removed from sidewalks and shared-use paths.
5. Budgets should be revised to find funds needed to make the needed improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists on existing roads and streets (including resurfacing and maintenance).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association also provides recommendations to keep pedestrians safe from large truck crashes. These include:
1. Remember that large truck drivers (and bus drivers) cannot see you all the time — you may see the truck, but the truck driver may not see you.
2. Trucks make wide right turns; keep a safe distance from street corners. The big rig may even run its tires over the sidewalk. Don’t assume the driver can control that big rig enough to keep it from hitting you.
3. All large truck drivers have “blind spots” where they cannot see around cars or trees or other vehicles. Some big rigs have big blind spots. If the truck has its engine running, then it’s a danger to you on the street. Even if it looks parked and steady. Give it plenty of room to move. And never walk behind a large truck with a running engine; they can reverse and back up very fast and you could get hurt.
4. Big trucks need time to stop. Anyone crossing the street where there is a large truck nearby needs to know that this big rig may look far away, or it may look to be slowing down and stopping – but it cannot stop very fast. The stopping distance for a large truck is much different than it is for a car or minivan or SUV. Don’t move in front of that large truck even if you are positive that it will be fully stopped before it reaches you, because if you are wrong then you could be hit.
5. Large trucks with wide loads are very heavy. They also take up more space on the roadway and they are much harder to maneuver and drive. The truck driver of these wide load big rig semi trucks will need more time to stop, more room to turn a corner, and he or she will have less visibility than other large truck drivers in their big rigs. Be patient, and give that wide load a wide berth.
The Danger Of Large Truck Crashes Where Pedestrians Or Bicyclists Are Being Killed Is Increasing In This Country.
Warn Your Loved Ones To Be Careful Of These Big Rig Semi Trucks When They Are Riding Bikes Or Walking To School.
Be Careful Out There!