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St. Louis, Missouri NBC affiliate KSDK has reported that an inattentive tractor trailer driver slammed into traffic in front of him on I-55 in Missouri, killing two people in a fatal trucking accident.

The Missouri Highway Patrol says the semi truck driver from Texas admitted he too his eyes off the road and when he looked back he just couldn’t stop for the slowing traffic in front of him.

From the KSDK report:

"Your life can be turned around, turned upside down in that split second you take your eyes off the road," said Cpl. Jeff Wilson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The truck driver told the highway patrol he looked away from the road, to his right. Then when he put his attention back on the road, traffic slowed to a point, it was too late to stop.

"He ran over the top of a Ford Focus and drug it 100 yards," said Cpl. Wilson, killing [a 52-year-old Missouri man]. The trucker swerved to the right, hitting more cars, killing [a 28-year-old woman from Festus, Missouri].

"When you’re inattentive, and traveling with an 80,000 pound vehicle or 78,000 pound vehicle, and you’re not looking where you’re going, and you injure or kill somebody, there could be grounds for a possible charge."

Missouri State Troopers said this crash was eerily similar to another that occurred just two years ago in which a semi truck driver on I-40 near 1-270 served a year in jail after not paying attention, reaching for his cell phone and causing a crash that killed three people.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those killed in this horrible crash. Their loss is made worse knowing that it didn’t have to happen.

Distracted driving is reaching epidemic proportions. 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.

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