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Two deadly Trumbull crashes raise questions about causes

Published: Wed, May 26, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

We’ll stipulate that we don’t know what was going in the cab of the tractor-trailer in the seconds before a deadly accident on Interstate 80 near Hubbard Monday.

And the public still doesn’t know what happened in the moments before another tractor-trailer smashed into a car carrying Marine recruits to Cleveland on March 31 on the other side of Trumbull County.

But we know enough to be frightened by the similarity in these crashes and to suggest that something may have been happening that should cause worry for every motorist on the road.

In each crash three lives were snuffed out.

The cars in which those victims were riding were reduced to tangled masses of metal.

The force with which the cars were struck was tremendous, as one would expect when a vehicle weighing as much as 40 tons hits one that weighs about 2 tons.

The trucks were moving at a substantial speed at the time of the crashes, which raises questions as to whether the drivers had been fully engaged in controlling their vehicles — or were they distracted to an extent that they only hit their brakes after it was far too late. Indeed, in the case of the accident in which the three Marine recruits died, there was a question as to whether the driver even tried to brake before impact. In Monday’s accident, the truck’s skid marks stretched for only a couple of car lengths before impact.

Special responsibility

To be sure, accidents happen, but it is the responsibility of all drivers to remain alert and focused on their driving. In the case of truck drivers, the responsibility is even greater because of the damage that a tractor-trailer can do. Besides, being alert at all times is part of the job.

When most drivers misjudge the speed of the traffic ahead of them or fail to notice that they’re entering a construction zone, the result is at worst a fender bender. But twice in as many months, we’ve seen what happens when a trucker makes the same type of mistake.

Was distracted driving a factor in these six deaths? Time will tell, as facts come out in court during possible criminal prosecutions and almost inevitable civil suits. Investigators can get access to cell phone and computer records, as well as, in some cases, video from in-cab cameras installed by trucking companies.

But for now, distracted driving is certainly a possibility worth considering because it is one explanation for the delayed response to conditions on the road.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says there are three main types of distraction behind the wheel:

Visual: Taking your eyes off the road.

Manual: Taking you hands of the wheel

Cognitive: Taking your mind off what you’re doing.

And one pastime some drivers of trucks and cars alike engage in involves all three: texting.

And while DOT has banned texting by commercial drivers, no one is claiming it has been eliminated.

Researchers at Virginia Tech found that truck drivers who send text messages on a cell phone are about 23 times more likely to get into some type of crash or near-miss than drivers who keep their eyes on the road. And how quickly can that trouble develop? A truck can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to send a typical text message.

And while accidents do happen, it’s no longer purely an accident when any driver knowingly engages in any activity that dramatically increases the likelihood of a collision.


1VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Observations from one who has friends on 18 wheels.

Many truckers travel over 500 miles every day. They get used to open roads, highway speeds and in-cab convienences, so traffic ahead of them is just another blur they are not ready for.

With our American dependence on Just-in-time deliveries, more and more truckers are on the road than ever before with pressures never encountered in the past. To be awarded a contract, most trucking firms market their speed in delivery and put constant pressure on drivers to deliver on-time, keep their paperwork up-to-date, and do it for less money.

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2anothermike(227 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

DJcolon is correct....I wonder how long it will be until the "behind the curve" [no pun] Ohio legislators will decide that driving while texting or talking on a cellular phone should be illegal. They will check the drivers for DUI, but probably won't check their phone records to see if they were "on" during [and before] the crash. As far as truckers getting used to open roads, the I-80 corridor where so many of these fatal crashes take place, is hardly that. Way too much truck traffic on this out-dated two lane highway. Speed in deliveries is no excuse along with yapping on a cell phone for the death of a raccoon, much less human beings.....guess the shipment will be a little late, hope the folks waiting for it won't be too offended...........

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3paulydel(1607 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

We don't need anymore laws. There are enough laws on the books already. We have a law already that is called innatentive driving which means anything you are doing in the vehicle that doesn't involve the driving of that vehicle such as drinking eating using a cell phone reading etc, means you are breaking the law. If we wrote laws for everything that was distracting we would have volumes of stupid laws. This just a distraction from the real problems of the world.

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4dana50golf(5 comments)posted 6 years, 2 months ago

Crashes, very well put, not accidents. Nobody ever means to do it. With the 3 Marine recruits, that was 2 months ago. What has happened to the toxicology reports? Is the driver of that tractor still making his living with his CDL license? What happened to presenting the evidence to the Grand Jury? Vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide? Where does this case stand right now? Please don't forget that 3 young lives were snuffed out by a truck running up into the back of a stopped G6 Pontiac. Those boys had no chance and deserve the rightful outcome of a full investigation and prosecution.

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