Mirrors for Large Trucks Hoped To Protect New York Pedestrians

In 2009, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reported 15,682 accidents involving pedestrians and automobiles. Even though New York City has made tremendous strides in improving traffic safety over the past decade, pedestrians still account for more than half of traffic fatalities in the period between 2005 and 2009. Some areas are more dangerous than others: for instance, per mile of street, Manhattan car crashes kill or injure four times as many pedestrians compared to the other four boroughs.

Authorities continue to take steps aimed at reducing the risk to New Yorkers traveling by foot: the latest pedestrian safety law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo will require the installation of special blind-spot mirrors on large trucks.

Requirements Of New York's New Mirror Law

The convex mirrors required by the new law are attached to the front end of trucks, allowing drivers to see the area directly in front of their hoods. Anyone three feet or taller passing within a foot from the truck should appear in the field of view offered by the mirrors.

These "crossover mirrors" will be required on every truck, tractor, tractor-trailer or semitrailer combination with a maximum gross weight of 26,000 pounds or higher while operating within any city in New York having a population of one million or greater. However, mirror installation is only mandatory for trucks registered within the state that have a conventional cab configuration (more than half the engine length forward of the windshield base and a steering wheel hub located in the forward quarter of the vehicle length).

The Push For Better Pedestrian Safety Measures

Advocates of the new law, including Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hail it as a significant victory in the fight for pedestrian safety. Similar measures have been considered several times by the New York legislature over the last few years, but it took a recent fatal accident to bring the pedestrian safety debate to a head and inspire lawmakers to finally act.

According to a comprehensive study conducted by the New York City Department of Transportation, nearly a third of fatal pedestrian accidents involve a driver's failure to yield. Due to their size, commercial trucks render pedestrians especially vulnerable in a collision, and improving driver visibility could cut down on serious failure-to-yield accidents. With an installation cost of around $120 per mirror, proponents of the new law believe that even a handful of lives saved would be well worth it.

Limitations Of The Law?

Not all New Yorkers are thrilled with the new mirror requirements. The New York State Motor Truck Association, for instance, would rather see large convex mirrors hung on telephone poles throughout the city. Crossover mirrors mounted on trucks, say NYSMTA representatives, lose effectiveness when vehicles are not stationary. City-wide mirrors could help operators of all types of vehicles see around corners and thus better anticipate pedestrians stepping out into traffic.

Additionally, the law does not cover many large commercial vehicles that operate within New York City. Since the mirror requirements only apply to those vehicles registered in New York State, any trucks traveling into the city from neighboring states will be exempt.

The Future Of Pedestrian Safety In New York

Despite concerns, when the new law takes effect in early January of 2012, crossover mirrors will be standard equipment for trucks operating in New York City.

Between 1999 and 2008, 161 fatalities and 2,732 injuries have resulted from pedestrian accidents involving trucks in New York City. In addition to the cost in terms of lives and suffering, New York City Department of Transportation calculations put the annual monetary price tag of pedestrian crashes within the city at $1.38 Billion.

The Department of Transportation has high hopes for safer streets: officials recently put in place a Strategic Goal seeking a 50 percent reduction in pedestrian fatalities in New York City by 2030.

What effect the new truck mirror requirements will have on reaching this goal remains to be seen. But, if even one tragedy can be averted, many will consider the crossover mirrors a success.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with a New York attorney today to learn more.