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Pedestrian safety

With Truck Mirror Law, Albany Can Save Children’s Lives Next Week

The Cross Over Mirror, on the right, allows truck and school bus drivers to see in front of their hood. Photo: __.
The Cross Over Mirror, on the right, allows truck and school bus drivers to see in front of their hood. Photo: __.

Governor Paterson has called a special session for the legislature next week, and it's full of big, tough bills. For example, both David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo are urging legislators to close a $315 million deficit, an action which could again steal dedicated funds from the MTA. Education funding is also on the docket.

But here's a small, simple way for Albany to save lives next week. Right now, the drivers of large trucks have a huge blind spot right in front of the cab. That puts pedestrians, and especially small children, in danger.

In 2004, Brooklyn fifth-graders Juan Estrada and Victor Flores were killed by a truck driver as they were walking home from school. They were crossing Third Avenue with the light as the truck turned right. The driver, John Olson, later said he never even saw the kids.

This cause of death is all too common. Seventy percent of all pedestrians killed in collisions with large trucks were struck by the front of the truck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF].

There's an inexpensive and easy fix. "Cross over mirrors" are convex mirrors positioned on the front of the truck that let the driver see into that blind spot. The mirror and the assembly kit list at between $23 and $57, not counting bulk discounts.

Here's where Albany comes in. There's a bill, S2057, which would require all trucks driving on New York City local streets to install cross over mirrors. That's already the law for school buses, and the law for large trucks is almost across the finish line. It's been in the works for years, and thanks to a strong push from the New York City DOT, the bill already passed the Assembly and the Senate Transportation Committee, where it didn't receive any nays. All it needs is the full Senate to take it up and then the governor's signature.

"How can parents let children walk to school and enjoy their neighborhoods when there are 26,000 lb trucks rolling around that can’t see them in a crosswalk?" said Transportation Alternatives' Lindsey Lusher Shute. "Crossover mirrors should have been passed long ago -- and any legislator that opposes this legislation will have a lot of explaining to do when another preventable tragedy occurs."

A coalition of safety advocates, including Transportation Alternatives, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Chekpeds, the Communities Impact Diabetes Center, the East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership, the New York City Strategic Alliance for Health and Sustainable Flatbush, just sent a letter to State Senator Martin Dilan, the bill's sponsor and the Transportation Committee chair, urging him to push the bill to the floor. Dilan's active support could make or break efforts to push the bill through this year.

However, a spokesman for Dilan said that the bill is unlikely to come up on Monday, when the special session begins. He wouldn't say whether Dilan would fight to bring the bill to the floor, adding that it's a little early to say.

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