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In December 6, 2012, Christopher Weigl, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student, was riding his bicycle in a marked bike lane when a 16-wheel tractor-trailer was making a right turn from the left lane (known as a “right hook turn”) and collided with the young man, who was crushed under the truck’s tires. The cyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

Ten months later, Weigl’s father filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and the truck company, Ross Express, on the basis of driver negligence while driving a tractor-trailer in a heavily traveled bicycle area. Ross Express is being held accountable because this incident could have been avoided if the truck company was more diligent in training its employees, according to the complaint. “These are very dangerous maneuvers to make in heavily traveled pedestrian and bicycle areas, and truck drivers should not be doing what he [the truck driver] was trying to do at the time of this accident,” said the family’s attorney. “It’s just a set up for disaster. We are doing everything we can to help promote awareness of this issue to try and prevent it again in the future.”

While the maneuver may be dangerous, it has been proven in Europe and Japan that truck side guards that cover the potentially hazardous gap between the front and back wheels can save lives. Side guards help deflect people away from trucks, lowering the risk of pedestrians and bikers falling underneath a truck in a crash. In the U.K. alone, since their use was mandated nearly 30 years ago, side guardrails have been linked to a 61 percent reduction in bicyclist deaths and 20 percent in pedestrian fatalities.

Despite the widespread use and effectiveness of these guardrails, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to enact any federal regulations requiring the life-saving safety equipment in the United States. Not willing to risk more lives, Mayor Marty Walsh took matters in his own hands for the citizens of Boston. After significant data during pilot testing, Walsh signed a bill making Boston the first city to require any large, city-owned trucks purchased after July 1, 2014 or trucks contracted out by departments, to be equipped with the safety rails. In June 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio made New York the second city to mandate side guardrails. De Blasio signed a bill requiring that all of the trucks in the city’s fleet of roughly 10,000 commercial vehicles be outfitted with side guardrails by the year 2024.

Lawsuit Financial commends the mayors of Boston and New York for taking action for the citizens of their respective states. While safety rails will not prevent all future accidents, how many more deaths need to happen before the federal government takes action?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.


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