Trucks and Bicycles: A Too-Often Lethal Combination on Indiana Roads

Each year, more than 5,000 trucking accidents result in roadway fatalities. In addition, more than 700 bicyclists are killed annually, and many of those incidents involve large trucks. bicyclist

Just recently, as reported by WISHTV-8, a kindergarten teacher from Indianapolis was killed on State Road 37 in Greenwood when she was struck by a large box truck while riding her bicycle. The 38-year-old teacher was hit from behind at around 9:30 a.m. as she traveled northbound on the road. The 56-year-old truck driver is believed to have swerved into her as she rode in the shoulder lane. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation remains open.

These types of tragedies are by no means unique to Indiana. Recently in Chicago, Streetsblog reported a spate of bicycle vs. truck accidents, many of them involving the dreaded right-hook scenario, in which a trucker made a right turn and collided with a cyclist riding to the truck’s right. (Left-hook bicycle accidents at intersections are also a big problem.)

A 2011 study in Ohio revealed that 23 percent of bicycle accidents involved pickup trucks, vans, mini-vans, or semi-trucks. The likelihood of a severe injury when a semi-truck was involved was 100 percent.

The University of Washington studied this issue a few years back in a report, “Why Can’t We Be Friends? Reducing Conflicts Between Bicycles and Trucks.” Researchers noted that cities seeking to reduce traffic congestion, environmental impact, and the obesity epidemic are encouraging cycling, but they are often forced to designate bicycle routes along existing truck routes. This has resulted in a safety conflict, since the two modes of travel are seemingly incompatible. However, the study authors concluded the conflict between trucking and bicycling – at least in Seattle – is more often than not a communication/relationship problem as opposed to a physical problem. Truck drivers view cyclists as unpredictable and not held to the high standards of commercial drivers. Meanwhile, cyclists view truckers as hogging a great deal of space and acting without due care, especially when making turns.

Researchers concluded that when bicycle routes were separated from truck routes, there were far fewer incidents. However, that’s not always possible – and it’s important to note cyclists have as much right to share the road as operators of any other vehicle.

In many cases, the primary causes of trucking accidents stem from a trucking company’s willingness to place profits over the safety of people. We see this in cases of:

  • Driver fatigue. It’s a leading factor in trucking accidents, reports the U.S. Department of Transportation, and it has to do with the fact that many trucking companies push drivers to exceed the federally allowable driving hours to make more or faster deliveries. Log books are routinely falsified, and companies may sanction drivers who aren’t keeping up with unrealistic schedules. Fatigue by any driver is serious, but when it involves an 80,000-pound rig, it may be fatal.
  • Speeding/following too closely. Here again, truckers are eager to get to their destination quickly. However, a truck driver needs an increased amount of time to safely stop. If the trucker is following too closely or not paying attention, they won’t be able to avoid a collision.
  • Poor equipment. Some researchers have concluded nearly a third of truck accidents are brake-related. Hoses and air brakes wear out. Tires may blow out. Trucks may be improperly loaded, poorly inspected, or ill-maintained. These are all issues that trucking companies have the power to avoid with due care.

All motorists – including cyclists – should keep their distance from large trucks and never assume the driver can see them. Our experienced Highland car accident lawyers are committed to fighting to ensure our clients receive fair compensation.

Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including in Gary and Hammond. Call Toll-Free at 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Kindergarten teacher dies in bicycle crash, Oct. 13, 2016, Staff Report, WISHTV.com

More Blog Entries:

Indiana Bike Share Programs Catching On, Oct. 6, 2016, Highland Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog