A fatal Kentucky accident put semi trucks on the front page news of Louisville’s Courier Journal newspaper. After a wreck between a semi and a passenger van left 11 dead, reporters began to dig deeper into truck accidents and found some unsettling facts.
The springboard of the reports resulted from a serious accident that occurred in the early morning hours of March 26th. A large Mennonite family and other close friends were traveling to a wedding when their van was hit head on by a tractor trailer that had broken through the cable barriers at the median across I-65. According to the article, this wreck was one of the deadliest in Kentucky since the May 14, 1988 crash in Carroll County between a bus full of my classmates from North Hardin and a drunk driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) created a six-person investigation team to uncover more details of this wreck. They have yet to determine an exact cause of the accident or a reason why the truck veered off course. Days later, the trucker was identified by the Courier-Journal as Kenneth Laymon who drove for Alabama based company, Hester, Inc.
According to federal reports cited in a later Courier Journal article, “Large trucks in Kentucky account for a disproportionate share of the state's fatal crashes…” The Kentucky State Police records show that in 2008, trucks made up 4.6 percent of the state's registered vehicles but unfortunately a disproportionate 8.9 percent of its tragic accidents. Even more disturbing is that accident statistics prove similar nationwide.
Things are being done to try to combat the problem. Recent legislation disallowed truckers to text while driving and a new federal regulation will require trucking companies that repeatedly violate driver time limits to install electronic recorders that track how long truckers spend behind the wheel according to an Andrew Wolfson article. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sees the regulation as a way of reducing the number of accidents caused by sleeping drivers. It is suspected, though not confirmed, that the lack of brake marks could indicate dozing off could have been the cause behind the Mennonite crash. The problem however is that according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, recorders will only be required for companies flagged during on-site reviews but only about 2 percent or less of the 750,000 U.S. trucking companies are reviewed on-site throughout the year.
Will Kentucky pass laws prohibiting texting while driving? Well, there is a bill pending in the Kentucky state legislature that could do exactly that in 2010.
Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the 2010 regular session that would make “texting” while at the wheel a no-no. It also would prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from using any cell phone. Violators would face $50 fines.
The Kentucky State Police’s annual report for traffic collision stated there were a total of 962 reported accidents caused by cell phones in 2008. The true number is actually much higher, but a lot of people will not admit to using their phone at the time of an accident.
A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institution concluded that a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. But even if the bill is passed, it could be difficult for police to enforce.
According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, some statistics show that nearly 6,000 people were killed and more than half a million were injured on America's roads last year in crashes linked to texting or talking while driving. As a result, more than 25 states have created some type of law restricting drivers from texting while operating their vehicles and many states have already proposed similar legislation, though it has not yet been passed.
Nevertheless it seems some states have been sending mixed messages, almost literally, when it comes to texting while driving according to a USA Today article from mid September. In the piece, Associated Press writer Andrew Demillo explains the possible contradiction resulting from certain states, including those with cell phone laws, sending traffic updates to drivers via text message or Twitter updates. The states argue that these updates are not cause for concern because they stress to drivers to check their messages and updates prior to leaving for their destination. However there are times when these “tweets” turn into an exchange of conversation between motorists and state officials, as demonstrated in Demillo’s article one user posted, “any idea what's going on westbound on 520? It's worse than rush hour..," and within a few minutes, officials responded: "Yes! There is a disabled vehicle just east of Lk Wash Blvd blocking right lane." The danger arises when these types of exchanges are being conducted while moving.
Amidst the talk of texting bans, one large group of motorists was at first absent from the conversation, truckers. In a report by Montana’s News Station, High Plains Owner and Operator Doug Landru was quoted in response to distracted drivers saying, “People don't realize they're sitting in a 4,000 pound weapon.” On the same token, distracted truck drivers are often behind the wheel of roughly 80,000 pounds and in most cases doing so while operating cell phones, radios and even laptops. But to that, Landru commented that to him a cell phone and internet are vital and Oregon trucker Edwin Parrish agreed saying, “Being able to check my text messages or my email messages, I'm able to know when I'm supposed to be some place.”
Fox 4 out of Kansas City, MO reported that several trucking companies are concerned about a texting ban because they use on board computer systems for communication. Nevertheless, a study at Virginia Tech University found that truckers driving while using the computers were 10 times more likely to have an accident. Often, the devices are disabled for use while driving, but not all are turned off and there is no way to tell whether or not they are being used while operating the vehicle. According to LaHood, the Obama administration will ban texting by truck drivers and restrict the use of other in-cab technologies as part of its effort to eliminate distracted driving.
Texting while driving has become such an issue in Kentucky that a statewide media campaign has been launched including a public service announcement by a Louisville girl involved in a wreck due to texting.
It is a well known fact that the odds of you, your car, truck or SUV winning in an interstate battle with an 18-wheeler are slim to none. So far in September, Kentucky has seen the effects of semi-truck accidents when an I-64 accident killed a Mt. Sterling man, and a Daviess County woman was struck on Audubon Parkway on the same day. But most people may be unaware of why these accidents are happening in the first place. We all know that foul weather, icy roads, alcohol are often catalysts precipitating car and truck accidents, and for the most part, most drivers often increase their efforts to avoiding the road during these times.
So it may surprise you to learn in 2002 71% of truck accidents in Kentucky occurred in good weather and on dry roads, 75% occurred during the daytime and 88% on weekdays when driving is part of the daily routine. In fact, there were no contributing weather conditions at all in 78.6% of Kentucky truck accidents.
So if bad weather isn’t causing the wreck, what gives?
One of the top reasons for accidents is driver fatigue which can lead to dozing off or distraction related accidents in Kentucky and across the nation. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “truck drivers behind the wheel for more than 8 hours had a twofold increase in crash risk…truckers’ long work hours cause sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep/rest cycles and fatigue.” Despite this statistic, in 2004 a new federal work rule went into effect allowing truck drivers to drive for up to 11 hours per day. And this was an improvement over the previous rule! The new rule’s goal was to improve safety but the Institute's survey showed the opposite as truckers are using new provisions to squeeze even more driving hours into the week. Just see this blog post by a real trucker who seeks to unveil the truth behind the profession.
And the driving force in money! Truck drivers drive more hours to get deliveries dropped off faster which then leads to more deliveries and essentially more money and higher satisfaction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1500 deaths each year.
Let’s put two and two together. Sleepy truck drivers plus sleepy car drivers equal accidents. Not to say that there aren’t a plentiful variety of other reasons causing truck accidents, but this is a factor each of us can control to some degree. I know that if there was one thing that could prevent me from being in an accident, I would make sure to keep it in mind. Perhaps being alert and awake can help us recognize and avoid other drowsy drivers. So get more sleep!
BARTOW, FLORIDA – A Polk County jury awarded a 21-year-old woman $65 million in damages Wednesday in a personal injury lawsuit against a trucking company.
“Trucking companies should get the message that they need to follow safety regulations designed to protect the public,” said Tampa attorney Jim Freeman, of Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. “This accident was preventable if the driver only waited for a clear view before turning.”
On Aug. 21, 2007, Kendra Lymon was a normal 19-year-old woman whose life was shattered when an 18-wheeler, owned by Bynum Transport Inc., T-boned her little Dodge Neon at the intersection of State Road 17 and State Road 64.
Kendra had no pulse when emergency personnel arrived at the accident scene. The lack of oxygen to her brain caused parts of it to die, and she suffered brain damage. She was in a coma, and hospitalized at Tampa General Hospital for months.
Today, she can’t speak. She can’t eat without assistance. She can’t control her bladder. She has trouble walking and sometimes needs a wheelchair. She needs around-the-clock care and continued rehabilitation, including physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Kendra was a beautiful young woman who knew what she wanted and worked hard to get it. She was a good student in high school, who participated in drama club and helped care for her siblings while their mother worked. Kendra loved to read and could speak six languages.
After graduating a year early from Hardee High School, she enrolled in South Florida Community College. She wanted to be a psychologist and was the first person in her family to attend college. She was about to enter her second year there when the accident happened.
Now she requires care and supervision 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and will need that for the rest of her life. Her medical bills alone are estimated to be more than $24 million over the span of her life, according to experts.
“She has suffered these terrible injuries needlessly,” Freeman said. “Kendra Lymon is one of the most deserving clients I’ve had in 30 years of practice.”
The defendants, Bynum Transport Inc. and driver Robert Bohn, tried to blame the accident on Kendra. Bohn claimed he had a green arrow, but eyewitness Ralph King said Kendra had a green light and wasn’t speeding. King said she tried to turn to the right, but by the time the truck entered her lane, there was no time to avoid it.
Bohn was fresh off a 24-hour shift as a full-time battalion chief for Polk County Fire Services when he headed to Bynum Transport Inc. for his part-time gig. Just after 8:30 a.m., he picked up a red 1997 Freightliner tractor and 2004 trailer, which together weighed 28,000 to 30,000 pounds. The plan was to haul a load of juice to Georgia that day to make some extra money.
But Bohn didn’t have 10 hours of off-duty time before driving the Bynum truck that day. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules require such a break because driver fatigue is biggest cause of truck accidents.
And Bynum Transport, where Bohn had worked part-time since 1993, didn’t have any system to crosscheck what the driver told them. They didn’t monitor Bohn’s hours of rest. The Driver’s Log he filled out the morning of the accident shows zero hours of work for each day in the week before the accident, despite the fact he had just finished a shift at the fire department. Federal regulations consider that or any other work the same as driving.
As Bohn approached the intersection of state roads 17 and 64, there was a tractor-trailer in the opposite turn lane, blocking Bohn’s view. Bohn turned left anyway, and he plowed into Kendra’s car on the driver’s side, crushing it and sending it spinning off the highway.
The Lymons, represented by Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. attorneys Jim Freeman and Bennie Lazzara, sued Bynum Transportation Inc. and the truck driver, Robert Bohn, for negligence.
The trial, which lasted over a week in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court in Polk County, concluded Tuesday. The jury came back Wednesday with a unanimous decision: Jurors found the defendants were 100 percent at fault in the accident and awarded $65 million to the Lymons.
“With this verdict, the family – including her mother, uncle, aunt and siblings who have been caring for Kendra – can now afford to get her the professional help she needs,” said Tampa attorney Bennie Lazzara. “Doctors say with proper medical care, Kendra will have a normal life expectancy.”
An update from the News of the Weird. A woman contends that her job as a stripper caused her to have a one-car wreck on her way home from work last year, according to a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Birmingham, Alabama.
Patsy Hamaker's suit says part of her job as a dancer at The Furnace club in Birmingham involved encouraging customers to buy her alcoholic drinks.
The suit alleges that managers at the strip club allowed her to leave work drunk one night last fall. She wrecked her car, resulting in serious injury, according to the suit.
Dancers receive a percentage of drink sales and make pretty good money doing so, according to the suit. On Oct. 17, Hamaker's sales were successful enough that she left work "in a highly intoxicated state," according to her suit.
"Defendants ... allowed a dangerous condition to exist by allowing said plaintiff to leave its establishment in such an intoxicated state while under said defendants' supervision and control," the suit says.
Management's negligence by allowing her to drive home drunk "was a proximate cause" of Hamaker's injuries, the suit says.
Hamaker seeks compensation for her injuries and additional money to punish the club. The case has been assigned to Judge Caryl Privett.
Hamaker's lawyer, Alan Smith, declined comment on where his client lives or whether she still works for the club.
"We won't talk about our client," Smith said. "We're not willing to talk about the case at this point."
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