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The Kansas City Star has reported that a one-year-old child was killed when a tractor trailer rig crashed into the vehicle in which the child was riding near Emporia, Kansas.

From the Star:

One-year-old Kolten Erwin of Emporia died when the van he was riding in was hit by a tractor trailer.

The accident happened shortly after 1 p.m. Friday four miles east of Emporia on U.S. 50.

A Kansas Highway Patrol report said the eastbound van was hit by a westbound semi as the van driver turned left at an intersection. The semi was passing on the right shoulder, around another westbound semi that had stopped to turn left at the same intersection.

The truck drivers were not hurt. The 1-year-old was taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where he later died. His 25-year-old mother was treated at Newman Regional Health in Emporia, while his 2-year-old brother was treated at Children’s Mercy.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family. The tragedy is compounded knowing this crash did not have to happen.

The Star reported that the eighteen wheeler that slammed into the Erwin’s van was passing traffic on the shoulder. This type of outrageous driving – particularly when it is done by commercial truck drivers – must be stopped.

Crashes like these do not have to happen and are often preventable through the use of simple precautions, such as avoiding distractions while driving.

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.

Just recently, in Kentucky, an entire family was lost as eleven people were killed when a semi-truck drove through the median of I-65 and crashed into the families van. In Phoenix, a commercial truck plowed through several motorcycles as the truck driver was doing paperwork while driving, killing three motorcyclists and injuring six others. The truck driver has several previous violations.

Within the last several weeks, a tractor trailer caused a massive 50 car pile up on Interstate 80 in Wyoming, 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 trucking accidents like this keep happening? The most likely answers are distracted driving, fatigue, and speed.

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.

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