In February 2012, the Colorado State Patrol released the names of two sisters who died in an accident involving a commercial semi earlier in the month. The accident occurred on Colorado 160, a few miles west of Alamosa. Investigators suspect poor weather conditions led the driver of the car to lose control of her vehicle and go into the lane of the oncoming truck. The two women in the car were pronounced dead at the accident scene; the semi-driver was uninjured.
Although this may be the most recent fatal truck accident in Colorado, it unfortunately will not be the last. Colorado and the rest of the country continue to experience fatal truck accidents at an alarming rate. The sheer size and weight of commercial trucks, 80 feet long and weighing up to 40 tons, makes it more likely that motorists colliding with them will suffer serious or fatal injuries. These concerns have prompted actions by lawmakers to address the causes of truck accidents and prevent them from continuing to increase.
Rise in Truck Accidents Nationwide
In 2010, 3,675 Americans died in accidents involving large trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This represents a disturbing 8.7 percent spike in truck accident fatalities compared to 2009. The increase is even more concerning considering that motor vehicle accidents as a whole have declined 2.9 percent during that same time period.
“This distressing news that there are more truck crash fatalities in 2010 is a clear and compelling call for stronger regulations, tougher oversight, and sustained enforcement of motor carriers across the country,” explained the President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Truck Accidents in Colorado
According to the NHTSA, Colorado also recently experienced an increase in fatalities involving large trucks. In 2010, 49 Colorado drivers were killed in semi accidents, compared to 40 in 2009. Previously, Colorado experienced a decline in truck accident fatalities between 2007 and 2009. This mirrors national data, which also showed an overall decline in truck accident fatalities during those years, prior to the recent spike in truck accidents.
Weld County in Colorado experienced the most fatal truck accidents in 2010 with seven. Other counties with multiple truck accident fatalities included: Jefferson County, Adams County, Douglas County and Elbert County.
Lawmakers Taking Action
Legislators and regulators have taken notice of the issue, and are working to strengthen laws and enforcement in the truck industry. On the national level, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2011 (S.1950), also known as the “CMV bill,” has been recommend by committee for consideration in the full Senate.
If passed, the CMV bill would accomplish a number of goals, including: requiring truck operators to use electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to deal with the issue of truck driver fatigue; imposing steeper fines for “reincarnated carriers,” which continue to operate illegally after regulators shut them down for safety violations; and setting up a clearinghouse of alcohol and controlled substance testing records of operators.
Truck Accidents Caused by Distracted Driving
Another major issue recently tackled by lawmakers is the issue of distracted driving by truck drivers. A new law specifically targets the number one driver distraction- cellphones. Beginning in January 2012, a federal law banned truck operators from using hand-held phones.
Truck drivers are now prohibited from texting, dialing or even holding a phone while their trucks are in operation. The law does allow drivers to use hands-free mobile devices, but they must only require a single touch. Those truckers who are caught violating the law potentially face over $2,000 in fines and loss of their license.
What if you are injured in a truck accident?
If you are injured in a truck accident, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney. A lawyer can help you determine what factors caused your accident. The truck driver may have been violating cellphone laws or other regulations involving hours behind the wheel, overloading or improper loading of cargo.
With regard to cellphone use, it may be found that the truck driver’s actions rose beyond negligence, to the level of reckless driving, which can make the charges more severe. A lawyer can thoroughly investigate the accident and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
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