Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Distraction, fatigue, bad brakes caused fatal truck-train accident

In the wake of a fatal accident, it can take time to discern the accident's cause or causes. Most of the time, however, the answer is tragically predictable. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board recently released the results of their investigation into a fatal accident that took more than a year to complete.

Combining three of the most prevalent road hazards of the day, the causes of the accident were a set of bad brakes on a large truck being driven by a distracted truck driver who was suffering from fatigue.

The distracted driver, who had multiple speeding violations on his driving record, collided with an Amtrack train. The collision resulted in the deaths of six individuals and over a dozen injuries in June of 2011. The driver may have been texting while driving, but was almost certainly distracted and suffering from fatigue. He was sleepy because of the inconsistent sleeping patterns so many commercial drivers are exposed to on a regular basis.

Shockingly, this collision did not occur on an unmarked pass. Evidence confirms that flashing lights and a train crossing gate were fully engaged at the time of impact and in the nearly 20 seconds before the collision. The chairwoman of the NTSB concluded that "This accident could have easily been prevented if the driver had acted appropriately or the motor carrier had acted responsibly in maintaining the vehicle."

This case clearly illustrates one of the most tragic aspects of a fatal motor vehicle accident. Though some accidents cannot be anticipated, many are truly predictable and could have been avoided if only the involved parties had behaved like responsible adults.

Source: The Republic, "NTSB: Distracted driver of truck with bad brakes probable cause of fatal Amtrak-semi crash," Scott Sonner, Dec. 11, 2012

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