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Daniel Squadron

Mirror Law Loopholes Keep City Pedestrians at Risk From Large Trucks

Loopholes in the state's crossover mirror law allow large trucks to operate unsafely, and legally, on city streets. Photos: Brad Aaron

Following queries by Streetsblog, two state senators have pledged to address loopholes in a new state law that permit large trucks to be operated without safety mirrors, thereby endangering pedestrians and cyclists, especially children and the elderly, in New York City neighborhoods.

The law requires trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with convex, or “crossover,” mirrors -- which allow drivers to see what, or who, is directly in front of them -- when driven on NYC streets. But the weight clause exempts trucks that have the same cab configuration, and the same "blind spots," as heavier trucks. And the law applies only to trucks that are registered in New York State.

The registration loophole lets companies that do business in the city but are based elsewhere forego the mirror mandate. One of those is Haddad's, a Pennsylvania firm that provides trucks for film and television productions. Haddad's set up shop in Inwood twice recently, for shoots for two TV shows. Of all the company's trucks that would be required to have the mirrors if not for their Pennsylvania plates, none did. Haddad's did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

The mirror requirement took effect in January, after crashes that claimed the lives of Brooklyn school kids Juan Estrada and Victor Flores in 2004 and grandmother Theresa Alonso of Staten Island in 2010. Support for the bill grew after 5-year-old Moshe Englender was killed in May 2011 by the driver of a meat truck as he rode his tricycle on a Williamsburg street.

"All legislation are works in progress," said State Senator Marty Golden, who sponsored the bill. "We will look at the concerns and see if they can be legislatively addressed."

Enforcement is also a concern. Under the law, this truck should have crossover mirrors, which allow drivers to see what, or who, is in front of them.

Crossover mirrors have been standard on school buses for some time, but it took years for Albany to apply the regulations to large trucks. Had the law been in effect, the mirrors would have been required equipment on the truck that struck Brooklyn cyclist Mathieu Lefevre in October 2011, according to attorney Steve Vaccaro, who is representing the Lefevre family in a suit against the truck manufacturer.

"Last year's passage of legislation to require convex mirrors was an important step," said Senator Dan Squadron, a bill co-sponsor. "However, gaps remain and I'll continue to push for amendments and other legislation to ensure that pedestrians, cyclists and all users have every possible protection -- when it comes to trucks and in general."

As with many New York City traffic rules, enforcement is also an issue. An informal count conducted by the Daily News in April found many trucks in violation of the law. But the level of enforcement is not publicly available information, since NYPD summons reports do not itemize mirror violations.

Vaccaro says the initial bill was an invitation for trucking companies to skirt state regulations: "By writing this loophole into the crossover mirror law, legislators have given the businesses that use these trucks just one more reason to register and insure them out of state, while continuing to externalize and impose their various costs, including congestion, pollution, and crash risk, on New Yorkers."

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