It is a typical morning in a suburban neighborhood. Children are heading to school, people are leaving for work, residents are walking dogs, and joggers and cyclists are out exercising. Now place a vehicle that is thirty feet long, ten feet wide, and weighing eight to ten tons in the middle of this activity. The driver of this vehicle is extremely limited in what he can see and hear, yet he must repeatedly stop, start, back up, and maneuver in and out of tight spaces.
In California, this driver is not bound by certain standard safety laws including those that require driving on the right side of the road, or prohibit blocking bike paths. It sounds dangerous – and it is. Still, this situation is repeated every week, and in every town and city in this country. It is trash day.
In modern society, the transportation and removal of trash, recycling and green waste are necessary services. Highly specialized vehicles are required to meet these needs. This creates serious safety risks. Today’s garbage and recycling trucks pose hazards to pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, motorists, and even themselves. Collisions and other accidents frequently result in severe injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries and concussions
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Amputation of limbs
Startling Accident Statistics
According to a study by Right of Way, a pedestrian rights organization, sanitation trucks had the highest pedestrian and cyclist fatality rate of any vehicle per 100 million miles driven. In addition, a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) noted that over a 12-year period (1980 to 1992), 450 sanitation workers were killed while performing trash collection duties in the United States. Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2007 that the fatality rate of trash and recycling collectors (22 per 100,000 workers) made that occupation among the deadliest of any in this country.
Fatalities and Critical Injuries
Here are just a few of the accidents involving sanitation and recycling vehicles in the U.S. in the last six months:
- May 13, 2015 – A 58 year old transfer station employee was hit and killed by a garbage truck in Danbury, Connecticut when the vehicle backed over him.
- May 6, 2015 – A man in Newark, New Jersey died when a sanitation vehicle crushed him in a garbage bay.
- April 23, 2015 – A 51 year old motorcyclist was struck and killed by a trash truck in Yuma, Arizona after the vehicle made a wide right hand turn.
- April 2, 2015 – The driver of a refuse and recycling truck was killed when the raised boom/lift mechanism on the vehicle struck an overpass in Fairfield, Connecticut.
- February 13, 2015 – Two teenage boys in Detroit, Michigan were in critical condition after their car was struck by a trash truck that made a left turn in front of them. The truck operator was found to be at fault.
- November 13, 2014 – The driver of a sanitation truck in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana was arrested for negligent homicide after slamming into the rear of a construction vehicle, killing the occupant.
Causes of These Accidents
Garbage truck accidents have many causes including:
- Driver neglect or failure to follow traffic rules
- Driver inattention, distraction, or fatigue
- Driver’s limited visibility / hearing
- Mechanical failures, including backup alarms
- Improper vehicle maintenance
- Improper training of drivers
California Laws Regarding Garbage Truck Operation
If you drive a standard car or truck in California, you must abide by all of the provisions of the California Vehicle Code. This code mandates that drivers must use the right side of the roadway and that drivers proceeding in opposite directions must pass each other on the right. You would also be prohibited from blocking bike paths and would need to follow certain guidelines for parking next to curbs.
Garbage truck drivers are not bound by these particular rules. According to Vehicle Code Section 21059, they are exempt if they are engaged in their collection duties and have their front and rear signal lamps flashing simultaneously.
Being in an accident with a garbage truck is not like other accidents. They can often cause serious bodily damage, even resulting in death. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a garbage truck accident, know that you are not alone. Contact the attorneys at Ernst Law Group are today. Our passionate attorneys will use their experience and expertise to fight for your rights to compensation. Call now.