Girardi | Keese

Deadly Truck Crash May Have Involved Driver Fatigue

Last month, a horrific truck crash killed a California family. According to a new wrongful death lawsuit, this tragedy may have resulted from a violation of federal trucking safety rules. Driver fatigue is involved in many dangerous crashes on California roads and around the country.

This truck crash happened last month in Nebraska. A husband and wife were driving across country with their two sons to move back to California after a period of work on the east coast. The mother was seven months pregnant with the couple's third child. The family was riding in two cars at the time.

While the family drove through Nebraska, two trucks were in a serious accident a little distance ahead of them. The crash blocked the entire interstate and the family found themselves waiting in stopped traffic. Although traffic was completely stopped, another semi-truck driver failed to respond. Instead, he slammed into the stopped cars at around 75 miles per hour. According to the lawsuit, he never even touched the brakes.

Federal rules require truck drivers to take regular rest stops to maintain their ability to drive with enough alertness to avoid crashes. Drivers can only be behind the wheel for 14 hours at a time. After driving for 14 hours, they must take a minimum of 10 hours to rest before driving again.

The family's lawsuit claims that the trucker was already three hours past his 14-hour limit. After 17 straight hours on the road, it is definitely possible for a truck driver to ignore brake lights ahead - exhaustion can impair judgment and slow down reaction times.

If this is what happened, it should serve as another warning to trucking companies. Despite the federal rules, trucking companies sometimes ignore drivers who violate the rest restrictions. Even worse, some companies still give drivers pay incentives for more efficient trips. This means that some drivers deliberately ignore safety requirements in order to make more money by completing faster deliveries.

Driver fatigue puts all motorists at risk and truckers should always follow the rest time rules.

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Dead family's relatives sue truckers for Neb. crash," Grant Schulte, Oct. 30, 2012

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