Riding a bicycle to work or to the store can save fuel and provide significant health benefits for many people. However, this same activity can prove deadly when bicyclists encounter truck drivers who are distracted or who have not received the proper training regarding right of way. One such case occurred on December 4, 2012, in Allston, a residential neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Christopher Weigl, a graduate student at Boston University, was traveling in the marked bike lane when he was struck and killed by an 18-wheeler making a right turn across the bike lane. Although no criminal charges have yet been brought against the truck’s driver, Weigl’s family is suing the trucking firm in court for negligence in training its operators regarding the risks and responsibilities inherent in driving in areas with marked bicycle lanes and high concentrations of traffic. Not an Isolated Incident Sadly, the accident that took Christopher Weigl’s life is far from unique. These types of collisions are all too common, in fact, that they have been given the nickname “right-hook crashes.” Any type of motor vehicle may be involved in these crashes, but accidents involving 18-wheelers are disproportionately deadly for bicycle riders due to the weight and bulk of these large truck-trailer combinations.
- On May 16, 2012, Kathryn Leah Rickson was killed when an 18-wheeler delivery truck made a right hand turn across the marked bike lane in which Rickson was traveling. The trailer rolled over the bike and rider, causing critical injuries that later resulted in Rickson’s death. This incident occurred in a heavily traveled area of Portland, Oregon; added signage has since been installed in the area of the crash.
- Just 13 days later, University of San Francisco student Robert Yegge was killed when his bike was struck by a truck driver who was turning right on a blinking red light. Yegge had a green light and had the right of way in the intersection. He was rushed to the hospital but later died of his injuries.
Right turns are not the only cause of fatal truck-bicycle crashes, however. Negligence and failure to yield lane space for bike riders can also lead to death on the road for cyclists.
- In a May 26, 2013, incident in Amherst, Massachusetts, 22-year-old Livingston Pangburn was killed when his bike collided with a left-turning truck at an intersection.
- Twelve-year-old Jacob Sellers was struck and killed by a semi-truck in Simi Valley on May 25, 2013. The driver was not aware of the collision until he was flagged down by a motorcyclist who had witnessed the accident.
- On July 23, 2013, 83-year-old Donald Schaefer was struck by a semi-truck turning right to enter an eastbound ramp in Lakewood, Colorado. The truck driver was cited for careless driving resulting in death and issued a summons to appear in court.
Many trucking safety experts believe that more can be done to protect the lives of cyclists and to reduce the frequency of these deadly accidents. Proper Training Could Save Lives Many collisions could be prevented by providing 18-wheeler drivers with in-depth training courses on sharing the road with bicycles. Although current driver training simulations often incorporate situations like the one that claimed the life of Christopher Weigl, the trucking industry can and must do more to ensure that drivers are aware of their surroundings and that 18-wheeler operators respect the rights of cyclists in the bike lane or on the road. Unfortunately, enlisting the help of an 18 wheeler accident lawyer may be the only means of holding trucking firms accountable for deaths and injuries caused by their employees. Too often, criminal charges are delayed or not filed at all, leaving grieving families with no closure and no justice for the negligence of careless drivers. A qualified tractor trailer accident attorney can demonstrate the failures of judgment and training on the part of 18-wheeler operators and can obtain compensation for family members and survivors of these horrific collisions. By working with an experienced truck accident attorney to hold trucking companies financially responsible for their actions, bereaved families and survivors of bike-truck accidents can make positive changes in the transportation and cargo delivery industries.