Just this week in Orange County, we had a few big rig accidents that closed local highways and caused serious personal injuries to the passengers in these cars. Trucker accidents are on the rise and there are multiple reasons. Normally truck accidents are associated with speeding, blown tires or weather problems. However a new study by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, has concluded that many trucker and bus accidents are actually caused by sick commercial license drivers actually experiencing seizures, heart attacks and unconscious spells behind the wheel.
According to the Truck Safety Coalition, www.trucksafety.org/ , more than 5,300 people are killed each year and over 10,000 are injured in truck-related crashes. Additionally, 98% of the fatalities involving trucks and automobiles are the occupants in the car. Since 1982, over 126,000 people have killed in large truck crashes and several thousand more have experienced severe personal injury.
Since 2001, the U.S. agency responsible for cracking down on unfit drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, have acknowledged that they haven’t completed any of the eight recommendations that the U.S. lawmakers have proposed. One of the most important ones is that there be a minimum medical standard of safety to drive. Many drivers tend to “doctor shop” if they have a medical problem that would otherwise prevent them from obtaining a commercial driver’s license.
Gerald Donaldson, a highway and auto safety expert recently stated that we have a major safety problem on our nation’s highways. House lawmakers are currently trying to merge databases containing commercial licenses and medical certificates. This is no easy battle and there are many in the trucking industry that opposes this issue.
Close to 10% of all truckers on the road today are also eligible for disability benefits. Recent accidents in California and other states include drivers under the influence of illegal substances, a driver with lung disease and experiences “blackouts”, undiagnosed sleep disorders, seizures, and other serious medical conditions. This is in addition to the drivers who use excessive speed and who are typically overworked and tired-this is a deadly combination.
Last month a California bus driver named Quintin Watts was arrested for driving, possibly under the influence, of some type of drug. He not only had a lengthy criminal record and a history of substance abuse, he did not have the proper commercial license to be transporting a bus load of people. The bus crashed, killing eight people and causing serious injuries to 30 others. Witnesses reported that he drifted into the other lane of a two-lane rural road, then overcorrected and subsequently rolled over and ended up in a ditch. This is one example of a preventable tragedy that did not need to happen. If transportation companies and regulators did their jobs performing proper background checks, including checking for appropriate licenses, this could have been averted.
With all of the trucker problems today, congress is considering increasing the load requirements to allow even bigger rigs on the highways. Many highway safety groups and citizens for auto safety naturally oppose such legislation. Lobbyists for the trucking industry propose increasing loads from 80,000lbs to 97,000lbs, even though scientific evidence is clear regarding safety issues of larger trucks on the road. Longer stopping distances, more difficult controllability and bridge safety are all public concerns.
Have you been injured in an accident involving a truck or bus? Contact an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in truck accidents at 1 888 752-7474. We can help you through your ordeal. Our office has handles a number of large injury cases involving trucks in the last 25 years and we specialize in recovery for truck accident victims. Call today.