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Another Distracted Driving Semi Trucker, Another Needless Death

4 comments

Distracted Driving Puts Lives In DangerCarolina News 14 has reported that another distracted tractor trailer driver has caused a trucking accident that resulted in a fatality. State Troopers said a distracted semi truck driver is to blame for the death of a 21-year-old Department of Transportation worker in Duplin County. The tractor trailer hit the worker while he was setting up a work zone.

The semi truck driver said he took his eyes off the road for "just a second" before veering off the road and pinning the worker between two vehicles. The trucker now faces several charges, including misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

Our thoughts and prayer go out to the family, friends and love ones of this young man. His death is made even more tragic in knowing that it could have been avoided if the truck driver had simply been paying attention.

Distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions. Just days ago, three people were killed in Illinois when a semi truck driver caused a 9-vehicle crash because he was looking at a map while he was driving.

On June 2, 2010, another distracted eighteen wheeler driver killed two people in Missouri when he took his eyes off road and could not slow his semi truck in time.

Did you know that a distracted tractor trailer driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call? That is precisely why, earlier this year, the US government officially banned semi truck drivers and bus drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel.

One of the deadliest distracted truck driving crashes occurred in Kentucky where a semi truck driver was using his cell phone at or near the time when his eighteen wheeler crossed the median and crashed into a van, killing 11 people on board.

Closely related to distractions is driver fatigue.

Driver fatigue is a particularly dangerous — and completely preventable — cause of trucking accidents. Nearly 15 years ago, the NTSB issued a report warning of truck driver fatigue dangers.

The NTSB found that trucker fatigue was a contributing factor in 30%-40% of all diesel truck accidents. The NTSB found that proper sleep patterns are imperative for truck driver safety. Truckers must get 8 hours of continuous sleep after driving for 10 hours or after being on duty for 15 hours for proper safety.

The NTSB just recently issued a warning that truck drivers should also be screened for a medical condition called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea denies people the rest they need, and it has been found to be a factor in incident involving every transportation mode, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in letters.

Too many people have been killed by semi truck crashes and trucking accidents. Nationwide, large trucks (known as tractor trailers, semi trucks, eighteen wheelers, diesel, big rigs, or commercial trucks) make up only about 3% of the vehicles on the road. However, they account for far more traffic fatalities. For example, in Missouri, semi truck crashes make up as much as 15% of traffic deaths. In Illinois, tractor trailer crashes cause more than 10% of traffic deaths.

Trucking companies and truck drivers need to make sure that crashes like this one stop happening. If drivers need to make a phone call or get directions, they should pull over and make sure they aren’t putting innocent motorists at risk.

Learn more at our safety blog and become a fan of Langdon & Emison on Facebook.

4 Comments

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  1. George says:
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    You can see this is a slighted article directed at Truckers. The facts are that the rules had changed for truck drivers. the one stated in this article are the old rules. And also noted is that trucking accidents have decreased significantly since those rules were put in place years ago.
    The real problem I see as an every day OTR truck driver is increased CARS driving while Texting, Talk without hands free devices, reading paperwork and all othe distractions. Come in a truck for a week and you will understand what the truck drivers have to deal with when these people using their Cell do in front,side and in back of us. See a car in front of you slow or weaving side to side and I tell you.. 9/10 times they are on the phone or texting. And when you pass them or they pass you they attempt to hide that fact.
    Sadly, everytime a truck is involved they/you attempt to say it is always the fault of the driver. When more times than not it actually isn’t. So before you and any other press continues to Jump at truck drivers for the fault. Come inside a truck for a week. For that matter a Day. You will see what is done in and around a truck. I will lastly add that I am not saying Trucks don’t do it or don’t cause the accident.
    If you have a cell I suggest since you are spending that money. invest in a hands free device if you must talk on the phone. But it should be nation wide to Ban ALL texting in a moving vehicle!!! TY and GB

  2. Lorrin J Eick says:
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    This article addresses a very real concern, particularly for those of us who drive trucks for a living. I can recount daily examples of distracted driving by drivers of semi-trucks and automobiles alike.
    I have seen a “truck driver” on a two-lane highway with his left leg hiked up against the door, sitting on his right leg, left hand on the wheel and right elbow resting on the gear shift, chin resting in the palm of his right hand. He was driving a truck owned by a major carrier and I suspect he was not trained in this fashion.
    Countless times people are reading something (a map is one example), or texting, or talking on the phone.
    Some folks do use the phone and maintain a fair degree of attention with a hands-free device; it’s not much different than conversing with a passenger. But some folks don’t drive very well under those conditions, as many a frightened passenger can attest.
    And drivers watching a movie on the lap-top should be incarcerated with no opportunity for parole. It happens more than you might imagine.
    Now
    Fatigue
    We all know the driver’s daily log is primarily a tool of the government, used to generate revenue. It was instituted by drivers because companies were literally killing their drivers when jobs were scarce by threatening dismissal when they were too tired to run. But like so many things under government control, it has gotten way out of hand.
    The new hours of service regulations say that a driver must complete the eleven hours allocated for driving within a fourteen hour period. My company expects, nay -requires- that I drive the eleven hours because this is how freight is moved. And…it is moved in the allotted time to satisfy the needs of shippers and receivers alike..
    So…accounting for loading and unloading in combination with fueling and driving we find that the fourteen hours is normally reached and that the rocket scientists in Washington D.C. have effectively screwed me out of the two hour nap. Hence, I am forced to drive when I KNOW I am tired. However, I am legally tired.
    I am 55 years old and have driven trucks for over twenty years. I am a biggie boy and I know when I am tired and when I am not. Many times I am good to go and out-of-hours. And many times I am whipped and wore out because I couldn’t sleep when I was legally supposed to be tired.
    Someday, I pray, the bureaucrats will realize that we don’t all follow the same routines and have the same requirements. I am a square peg and they keep trying to pound me into a round hole and as a consequence, all are endangered.
    Someday, maybe…safety will become more important than revenue.
    I am not optimistic.

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    It’s very saddening to hear about the lose of life on highway accidents, especially when it involves big rig trucks and four wheelers.

    I started trucking as an over the road semi tractor trailer driver in June of 1995 and today I can tell you the hours of service are wrong, 14 hours to pick up at a shipper, stop and scale your load at a cat scale location to meet legal weight limits, eating my Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, showering and delivering your load on time and running an exected 450 to 600 miles per day (10 to 11 hours of driving) is highly demanding and veery stressfull. America needs its freight in order to keep our economy moving.

    I used to be able to stop and take a nap for one or two hours if I needed one. That my friends is a thing of the past! The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) should do away with the 14 hour rule…

  4. Brett Emison says:
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    George, Lorrin and Eugenio —

    First — thank you for reading and taking the time to express your thoughts and concerns. I am encouraged that driving professionals such as yourselves understand the dangers of distracted driving. As I have said many times before, the vast majority of truck drivers are safe, courtious professionals, but there are a few “bad apples” out on the highways that hurt the entire industry’s reputation.

    Second — George, I appreciate your thoughts, but I think you misread the intent and purpose of the article. You start by saying:

    “You can see this is a slighted article directed at Truckers.” Then, you go off on a tangent seeking to blame drivers of “CARS”.

    My post was clearly not a “slighted article” against “Truckers”. My post was intended to highlight to risks and consequences of dangerous truck driving practices — distracted and fatigued driving.

    Surely, we can agree that no professional truck driver should become distracted while driving and no professional truck driver should drive while fatigued. If we can agree on this premise, it would seem that we are on the same page and have the same goal.

    I would agree with you that no driver — whether in a car, a semi, a pickup, a motorcycle or anything with wheels — should be texting while operating the vehicle.

    However, you leap to a broadly defend every truck driver in every situation, saying “Sadly, everytime a truck is invovled they/you attempt to say it is always the fault of the driver.”

    That is NOT what I said in my post. I talked about a specific instance and referenced other specific instances and in each it was confirmed that the truck driver was distracted and at fault for the crash:

    In the current post, the semi truck driver admitted to law enforcement that he took his eyes off the road before hitting a construction worker.

    A previous post (http://kansascity.injuryboard.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/distracted-semi-truck-driving-kills-again.aspx?googleid=281990) also included a truck driver admitting he took his eyes off the road before slamming into slower traffic in front of him.

    A third post (http://kansascity.injuryboard.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/chicago-area-semi-truck-crash-sheds-light-on-distracted-driving-dangers.aspx?googleid=281914) also confirmed the trucker was reading a map when he crashed into vehicle stopped in front of him.

    In none of these posts do I put blame on “all” truckers. I put blame on bad, distracted, and tired (possibly sleeping) truckers. Again, we should be able to agree that such practices are bad and blame is appropriate.

    Finally — I am also encouraged by the discussion of potential solutions. I, too, believe much of the blame lies with trucking corporations that demand too much of drivers and put too little emphasis on safety.

    Why are drivers paid by the mile instead of by the hour? It is so the trucking corporatations can shift the risk to the driver. The driver takes the loss if there is a traffic jam. If the driver was paid by the hour, he or she would compensated for the wait time, but not when he/she is paid by the mile.

    The driver is also encouraged to drive faster, to drive longer, and to drive even though the driver is fatigued.

    It also shifts the risk during loading and unloading. If the driver were paid by the hour, he would be compensated for loading and unloading time, instead of “awake” but unpaid.

    Trucking companies, regulators and drivers should work together to ensure that drivers and paid properly and safety is given appropriate emphasis.

    Thank you again for reading and sharing your comments.