Will the Feds Step Up for Ped Safety and Close the Crossover Mirror Loophole?

Albany's law requiring crossover mirrors for large trucks on NYC surface streets doesn't apply to out-of-state trucks. Will the federal government make this safety feature a nationwide requirement? Image: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/crossover-mirrors-flyer.pdf##DOT##

In February, 7-year-old Amar Diarrassouba was killed while crossing the street in East Harlem. Truck driver Robert Carroll ran him over while turning from East 117th Street to First Avenue. Because Carroll was driving a truck registered out-of-state, the vehicle wasn’t covered by the state law requiring crossover mirrors for large trucks on New York City streets. Community Board 11 recently asked Representative Charles Rangel to introduce a bill that would mandate crossover mirrors nationwide, but federal action seems unlikely in the near future and the loophole allowing out-of-state trucks to skip the safety mirrors remains in place.

From 1994 to 2003, 204 New York City pedestrians were killed and 4,698 were injured in collisions involving large trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF], 71 percent of pedestrians killed by the drivers of large trucks nationwide were first struck at the front of the vehicle.

The mirrors, which cost about $100, are located on the front of a truck’s cab and significantly improve a driver’s visibility directly in front of the vehicle and on the passenger side. The mirrors especially help drivers see children, who are more likely to be within a driver’s blind spot when walking near a large truck.

In 2011, Albany passed a law requiring crossover mirrors for trucks weighing 26,000 pounds or more operating on NYC surface streets, but the rule only applies to vehicles registered in-state, exempting trucks like the one Carroll was driving when he killed Diarrassouba.

After sending its letter to Rangel in July, CB 11 got a response [PDF]. “Your suggestion is timely and significant and deserves great consideration,” Rangel wrote. “Having every driver of a truck, tractor, tractor-trailer and/or semi-trailer use a ‘crossover’ mirror is imperative.” But Rangel’s letter didn’t say whether he would introduce or support legislation making such a requirement law, leaving CB 11 leadership wanting more.

“It’s kind of lukewarm,” CB 11 transportation committee chair Peggy Morales said last night about Rangel’s letter. Streetsblog followed up with Rangel’s office, which said it would get back to us after his legislative director returns to the office next week.

Congress isn’t the only route. U.S. DOT could use its rulemaking authority to set a national standard on crossover mirrors. Streetsblog asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if it had studied crossover mirrors or considered requiring them. FMCSA referred our questions to NHTSA, which said that it had not conducted research on crossover safety mirrors, though it was keeping an eye on the New York law and might conduct research in the future before beginning the rulemaking process.

Federal rules would not only close the New York loophole, but improve safety for pedestrians nationwide. Steve Gursten, an attorney serving as president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association, represented the estate of an 83-year-old man who was killed by a turning truck driver in Michigan. Gursten thinks crossover mirrors could have saved the man’s life, and urged the federal government to make them a requirement. “It really is that easy,” he said. “They’re under a couple hundred dollars, and they save lives.”

“The promise of the [New York] law won’t be realized until the federal government follows suit,” Transportation Alternatives spokesperson Brian Zumhagen said in an e-mail, while adding that TA is not pushing for additional changes to the New York law and is not actively pushing for a federal rule.

In general, crossover mirrors are not, at the moment, an active issue for national organizations with a stake in street safety. The American Automobile Association, America Walks and the Alliance for Biking and Walking all said that they don’t have a ready position on crossover mirrors. “It’s not an issue that we’ve taken on before,” said Mary Lauran Hall of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. However, Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists said her organization “is supportive of a requirement on crossover mirrors to improve the ability of truck drivers to see, react to and avoid cyclists and pedestrians.”

In the meantime, drivers of out-of-state trucks are free to travel New York City’s crowded streets without crossover mirrors. “The problem is you have a really significant blind spot,” Gursten said, with pedestrians crossing in front of the truck and outside of the driver’s vision. “The truck driver absolutely cannot see them.”

  • Driver

    “Having every driver of a truck, tractor, tractor-trailer and/or semi-trailer use a ‘crossover’ mirror is imperative.”

    Then maybe they should address the other loophole; straight trucks registered under 26,000 lbs, which can sometimes be nearly identical to trucks over 26K. They can also be driven by anyone with a regular license.

  • And people with their dogs off-leash. We should also address this non sequitur issue at the same time.

  • Anonymous

    Many trucks, whether in New York or not, have these mirrors, either as a standard feature or something the company installed for safety reasons. And chances are that they’ll be more common on new trucks after New York’s law, since companies don’t usually make different vehicles for different states.

    So how many of the 204 NYC pedestrians killed in that time period were killed by trucks with these mirrors? And, therefore, how many lives would actually be saved by mandating them?

    Also, I take issue with your use of the term “loophole.” Millions of vehicles from out-of-state go into the state each day. The legislature didn’t intend for this law to cover all of them, so it’s not really a loophole. It’s like saying that people who work in New York but live in New Jersey are exploiting a loophole in New York income tax.

  • Erik Griswold

    I’d be more concerned about these lugnut caps that are becoming less rare
    (See attached photo)

  • Daniel

    It’s pretty insane that a class D license which you can get by watching a video and taking a very basic 10 minute road test, lets you drive a 26,000 lb vehicle. There is technically a 7 day waiting period from when you get the learner’s permit to when you take the test, but I know when I got my NY drivers license I got the license and rented a car 6 days after getting my learners permit and had spent just a couple hours behind the wheel.

    It makes sense to me that there be a class E license that allows you to drive a 10000 lb vehicle and a class F license that allows you to drive a 3000 lb vehicle (sedan). Start drivers out on the class F and then have rigurous training requirements for the class E (SUV category) and 26000lb (delivery truck category).

  • Anonymous

    You are right, it should have been called a gaping hole instead of a loophole.

    Imagine if the law made it a crime to leave the scene of a crash, but only if your vehicle is registered in NY. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But in a sense, this is what happens whenever a truck driver crushes a soft victim without even noticing, thanks to the lack of crossover mirrors.

  • Joe R.

    What about cameras to cover blind spots, especially in places where any type of mirror wouldn’t work?

  • New York may not be able to enforce the mirrors on vehicles registered out of state, but they sure can enforce a lot of other regulations on out of state trucks that don’t have the mirrors. Just ticket the fuck out of trucks without the mirrors for other violations they can be fined for until trucking companies take the hint.

  • Paul

    I think this discussion about mirrors misses the point – a vehicle of this size should not be on city streets! At the very least, they should restrict trucks to very early AM or late at night, and/or require a special “oversized vehicle” permit.

  • Joe R.

    Some people have been proposing restricting deliveries to late nights for decades. Unfortunately, businesses always complain it will mean extra costs and the measures go nowhere. Maybe eventually there will be enough public outrage for these bills to gain some traction. Besides, this is NYC. It’s not like the stores here close after 6 PM like in small towns.

  • Anonymous

    And then the neighbors complain about the noise caused by nighttime deliveries…


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