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Brett Emison
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Deadly 50-Car Pile Up Triggered By Semi Truck

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The Denver Post and KUTV have reported that a 50-car wreck on Interstate 80 in Wyoming was caused when a tractor trailer jackknifed and a second semi truck overturned while trying to avoid it. The eighteen wheeler crashes set off a chain reaction involving more than 100 vehicles and resulting in at least one fatality.

From the Denver Post:

The pile up started about 9 a.m., when a semi jackknifed on eastbound I-80 near Wamsutter. A second truck overturned trying to avoid it. This set off a chain of other accidents, a spokesman for the Wyoming Highway Patrol said.

One person was killed, and about six others were taken to the hospital, Wyoming state troopers said. Up to 100 vehicles are on the stretch of highway either wrecked or stranded as they were unable to move past the other accidents.

Eastbound I-80 remains closed between Rawlins and Rock Springs. Troopers don’t expect the road to reopen until after 5 p.m.

Investigators blamed the accident on icy roads and foggy conditions, as well as on drivers who may have been driving too fast for those conditions.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in this deadly collision.

All motorists — and especially semi truck drivers with 80,000 pound rigs — are supposed to be alert and leave enough room in front of them to be able to avoid crashes like this one. Now, I agree that the vast majority of truckers out there are safe, but even a few bad apples give all the other tractor trailer drivers a bad name.

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.

Within the last several weeks, an eighteen wheeler crashed into the back of a Greyhound bus near Bowling Green, a truck driver slammed into a woman’s parked vehicle while he was watching streaming porn on a laptop while driving. A truck driver slammed into the back of a passenger van in Indiana. A semi truck crashed into a parked vehicle in Texas. Late last year, a trucker never even hit his brakes before crashing into a minivan stopped in traffic and killed a three-year-old boy.

Why do crashes like this keep happening? The most likely answers are distracted driving and fatigue, although it appears weather may have been factor in the Wyoming pile up.

Earlier this year, the federal government enacted regulations to crack down on distracted driving by truck and bus drivers. A study by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that distracted truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or a close call.

Driver fatigue is also 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 has also 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.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") lists the following as some of the most common causes of big rig accidents:

  • Poor Driver Training

  • Driver Fatigue (Tiredness)

  • Speeding

  • Overloaded Trucks

  • Oversized Trucks

  • Brake Failure

  • Poor Driving Conditions

  • Driver Inexperience

  • Failure To Yield The Right-Of-Way

  • Driving Under The Influence of Alcohol Or Drugs

  • Aggressive, Dangerous Or Reckless Driving

  • Mechanical Failure (Or Improper Maintenance)

  • Defective Parts (Such As Defective Steering Or Brakes)

Truckers and trucking companies must be mindful of each of these trucking accident causes.

Driving an 80,000 tractor trailer covering hundreds of thousands of miles is an awesome responsibility. Truckers and trucking corporations must be vigilant about safety.

You can learn more about trucking accidents online, and become a fan of Langdon & Emison on Facebook.