A recent report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the truck accident in which 11 people were killed brings to light again the safety issues of truck drivers and those around them. The recommendations in the NTSB report and other changes will hopefully make the roads safer for all drivers.
After a March 2010 collision in Kentucky killed a truck driver and 10 passengers in a van, NTSB began a thorough investigation of the accident. Almost 18 months later, the board concluded the accident occurred because the truck driver was distracted by his cell phone when he crossed the median and hit the passenger van. The recommendation that all commercial drivers be prohibited from using a cell phone, regardless of whether it is handheld or hands-free, while operating a vehicle, was sent to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Current rules already ban texting for commercial drivers, and a ban for handheld cell phone use for commercial drivers is expected to be ruled on this fall. The rule currently under consideration does not include hands-free calls, which may be just as distracting and dangerous as handheld calls.
Several other changes have been implemented or are being considered to help keep drivers in and around trucks safer on the road. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) added new regulations to make the driver of the truck more liable for both the operation and maintenance of the truck. Just as commercial carriers are graded, commercial drivers will be graded on factors including their driving abilities, accident records, and vehicle maintenance. For example, if the truck the driver is operating fails an inspection, or if the driver is involved in an accident or found to be fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it will be reflected on the driver's record. Too many negative reports can cause the truck driver's license to be suspended, effectively removing him from the roadways.
Some safety changes do not directly involve Kentucky truck or car drivers, but rather the road itself. Crossover barriers installed between highway lanes can help to stop vehicles from crossing over into oncoming traffic and causing deadly head-on collisions. These barriers do not always help, as was evidenced in the March 2010 accident mentioned above - the semi drove right through the steel cable barriers into oncoming traffic. But they have helped in other situations, and stronger types of barriers are being considered. The widening of Kentucky highways as traffic increases also makes the roadways safer for all drivers.
During the week of October 16-22, 2011, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Commercial Vehicle Division is taking part in the national "Operation Safe Driver" campaign. According to KSP's press release, "Operation Safe Driver will hold activities across the United States, Canada and Mexico that aim to increase commercial vehicle and non-commercial vehicle traffic enforcement; safety belt enforcement; driver roadside inspections; driver regulatory compliance; implementation of commercial driver educational and awareness programs to the motor carrier population; and, awareness to the motoring public about safe operations around commercial motor vehicles." This program focuses not only on the driving habits of the commercial drivers, but also the other motorists around them. KSP urges all motorists to keep the following tips in mind when driving with commercial vehicles:
- Stay out of the No-Zone. No-Zones are actual blind spots where the car "disappears" from the view of the truck driver.
- Stay visible! Large trucks need a much longer braking distance than a car. Don't cut into a trucks' space; if this happens it reduces a trucks' much needed breaking distance and restricts evasive action.
- Don't tailgate a truck. The further you are away from a truck the less likely you will be involved in a collision.
- Don't speed. Obey all speed limits.
- Allow plenty of room. Large trucks are almost as wide as your lane of travel. Pacing too close behind one prevents you from reacting to changing traffic conditions and patterns.
- Buckle-up. Wearing your safety belt is the single most important thing you can do to save your life in a crash.
- Pay attention. Distracted driving is the number one cause of collisions. Focus on the road and stay alert! Protect yourself and your passengers by learning how to share the road safely with large vehicles and avoid distracted driving.
If you have been involved in an accident and need additional information, please contact Kentucky accident attorneys Miller & Falkner.
KSP To Participate in National ‘Operation Safe Driver' Campaign; Kentucky State Police; October 14, 2011
Deadly stretch of road will get cable barriers; WDRB.com; Rachel Collier; August, 2010
Final Report Issued on Fatal I-654 Crash; The Courier-Journal; Brett Barrouquere; October 13, 2011