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The Chicago Tribune has reported that 3 people were killed and 13 hurt in a trucking accident when a semi truck driver triggered a 9 vehicle crash when he looked down at a map. This

A Louisiana truck driver triggered a fatal nine-vehicle accident when he looked down at a map as he approached slowing traffic on an eastern Illinois highway, police said.

Three people were killed and 13 were hospitalized Monday evening when the truck driver crashed into the back of a vehicle near a construction zone, setting off a chain reaction that eventually included nine vehicles on Interstate 57 north of Mattoon, police Capt. Stuart Shaver said.

The people who died were in a sport utility vehicle that caught fire, he said. Their names haven’t been released.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in this horrific tragedy and also to their family members, friends and neighbors. That this tragic crash could have been avoid makes the suffering that much worse.

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.

Safety experts had been pushing for a "no texting rule" for months. Distracted driving among truck drivers made the National Transportation Safety Board’s ("NTSBs") 2009 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

The NTSB was prompted by investigations into six fatal crashes involving bus drivers or young, inexperienced drivers, in which distraction caused the crash. It specifically wants the FMSCA to "prohibit cellular telephone use by commercial drivers of school buses and motorcoaches, except in emergencies."

Advocates’ petition points out that large commercial trucks are represented disproportionately in fatal crashes — representing about three percent of all motor vehicle registrations, but eight percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes and 12 percent of all traffic fatalities each year.

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.

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