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Truck driver inexperience may have been to blame for fatal crash

Truck accidents often have a number of contributing or exacerbating factors, and most or all of these are preventable. This is one reason why the high number of truck accidents on U.S. roads is so particularly vexing. Unlike the rest of us, commercial truckers are considered “professional” drivers.

One family’s wrongful death lawsuit alleges that in addition to faulty brakes, inexperience was the cause of the fatal truck accident that killed their 25-year-old son in a July truck accident. While this accident did not occur here in New York, trucking industry safety is an issue that affects drivers across the 48 contiguous states.

In July, a truck driver traveling on a mountain road in California lost control of his big rig and slammed into 10 other vehicles. Seven people were injured and a 25-year-old driver was killed. The truck was carrying about two tons of dirt at the time.

The accident was caused, at least in part, by faulty brakes on two of the truck’s trailers. According to the family’s lawsuit, however, the inexperienced driver should not have been carrying such a heavy load on such steep mountain roads. The trucker had only been commercially licensed for about three months prior to the crash.

In a news conference held to announce the wrongful death lawsuit, an attorney representing the family noted that “this gut-wrenching tragedy would have never happened had the responsible companies taken steps to ensure that an unskilled trucker driving a faulty big rig not be allowed to traverse a complicated, mountainous journey.”

The victim’s sister also spoke, announcing the larger purpose of this lawsuit. She said: “Our message to the trucking industry is clear. Immediately find a way to better regulate, supervise and train your drivers or we will take the steps through Congress and our state legislature to force such actions so that needless deaths such as my brother’s will never happen again.”

The plaintiffs and their attorney have suggested implementing tiered truck driver licensing. This would restrict the weights and driving routes of newly licensed truck drivers and would gradually allow them to carry heavier loads and drive more dangerous routes as they gained experience.

Should a similar measure be considered in New York or at the federal level?

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Santa Cruz family of Highway 17 crash victim files wrongful death lawsuit,” Stephen Baxter, Sept. 11, 2014

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