Each year, in the United States alone, approximately half a million trucking accidents occur resulting in at least 5000 deaths. According to statistics and data released in March 2019 by the Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts’ (LTBCF) annual report provided by the United States Department of Transportation, 2017 has seen an increase in the number of fatal crashes involving trucks and buses since 2016.
Some other alarming facts in the report stated approximately 4,100 people died in 2017 as a result of trucking accidents. Only 17% of this number (697 people) were occupants of the trucks in question, while the remaining 3403 fatalities were all individuals in other cars, innocent pedestrians, bikers etc. Given the sheer size and weight of a truck, it is no surprise that a trucking accident usually results in catastrophic and fatal injuries
Given the increasing number of cars, trucks, buses and other modes of transportation in any large, thriving city, some collisions and accidents are bound to happen and are expected. However, what is distressing is how easily a large percentage of these trucking accidents could be avoided and prevented.
What are some reasons for trucking accidents?
- Failure to properly check blind spots when changing lanes or making turns. Big trucks understandably have bigger ‘no zone’ areas which can make it difficult to spot smaller vehicles requiring the driver to be extra cautious and attentive.
- Losing control of the truck and sliding around on the road due to an obstruction on the road, even something small like hitting a railing or a curb can have a devastating impact for a large truck often carrying a heavier load.
- Technical issues or faulty parts such as breaks that malfunction or tires that blow out.
- Carrying loads that are too heavy and / or exceed the recommended regulations;
- Driver distraction – falling asleep at the wheel, texting etc.
- Debris or other things falling on or near the truck.
While it’s clear some things would be beyond a driver’s control such as falling debris or obstruction on the highway, many conditions are fully within the control of the truck driver or the driver of other cars on the road.
In the last year, one of the most talked about and shocking trucking accidents in recent history took place in Saskatchewan, Canada on April 6 2018 when a coach bus carrying 29 members of a junior ice hockey team – the Humboldt Broncos collided with a semi-trailer truck at an intersection on highways 35 and 355.
The truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sindhu was driving at approximately 100km per hour and failed to notice or stop at a flashing stop sign at the intersection. In 1997 when a car accident in the same intersection claimed the life of six people, the flashing stop sign was installed and the speed was reduced to 60km per hour closer to the stop to act as a warning, but Sindhu missed the signs.
Because the Broncos bus driver had the right of way, he kept going not realizing the truck had failed to stop at the stop sign. By the time the bus driver realized the truck hadn’t stopped and hit the breaks, it was too late and the resulting collision ended with sixteen deaths and thirteen serious injuries, all the players were between the ages of sixteen and eighteen.
Sindhu survived and suffered minor injuries. It is a minor blessing the truck was carrying peat moss and nothing hazardous or flammable, had the truck been transporting gasoline for instance, the chances of anyone surviving would have been a miracle.
Earlier this year, Sindhu pleaded guilty to all the charges laid against him and was sentenced to serve eight years in prison bringing some semblance of closure for the families of the victims and an end to this tragedy.
Based on the findings of the investigation, there was no reason why the accident could not have been prevented. Alcohol, drugs, cell phones, malfunctioning parts, bad weather, none of that played a part. Sindhu said he had his eyes on a tarp that had come loose earlier. And that’s the biggest tragedy of all that a moment of inattention on the driver’s part could lead to such senseless accident and the destruction of so many lives.
When driving on the road, everyone (whether you’re driving a truck, a car or a bicycle) has a responsibility to drive safely, to be vigilant and to constantly remain aware of their surroundings because its not just their own life they hold responsibility for but the lives of anyone else on the road or in the vicinity.