Recently, I read about the truck driver that ran into several stopped vehicles in Colorado. People described the crash scene, where 4 people were killed, as “true carnage.” Many were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The descriptions reminded me of a 2017 rear-end semi crash in Illinois, where 1 man was killed and 3 seriously injured when a semi-truck driver crashed into back of a stopped vehicle, causing a seven-vehicle pile-up.
It also reminded me of two rear-end semi truck crashes my law firm has handled.
One involved a high school athlete returning home after cross country practice. He was hit from behind at highway speed and pushed into the oncoming lane, where his vehicle hit a pickup truck and started on fire. He survived, but now lives with permanent scarring and disabilities.
The other involved a high school freshman who was riding in a car and returning a dog he had been watching. As the car waiting to make a left hand turn, a semi-truck traveling at 60 mph hit the car from behind, catapulted into the oncoming lane where it was struck by a pick-up.
The boy was killed, along with another passenger.
These are just a few examples of the many lives that have been taken or forever changed by rear-end semi truck crashes.
It is reported that more than 4,300 people were killed in collisions with semis and other large trucks in 2016, a 28% over 2009, according to the federal government.
It would be equal to a 737 airliner crashing twice a month, killing all on board.
“Those should be eye-opening numbers,” said John Lannen of the Truck Safety Coalition. “If air carriers or railroads reported similar numbers, there would be national outrage.”
Yet, government regulatory agencies, motor carriers, and semi-truck manufacturers still don’t require and install safety systems that would have averted thousands of rear-end semi crashes like the ones described above.
Industry and legal experts say that rear-end truck crashes are among the most devastating and yet the easiest to prevent with available technology.
The National Transportation Safety Board has made repeated pleas to take action that would prevent or mitigate the loss of life and damage caused by rear-end truck collisions.
What is so difficult for victims and the families of victims to accept is that the technology is not groundbreaking. Automated warning and braking systems can be found on many new cars. In fact, the auto industry promises that by 2022 this safety equipment will be standard on all new passenger vehicles sold in the United States.
To the contrary, heavy truck makers, have failed to make any commitment and only a small percentage of semis using our public roads have collision avoidance technology.
While the technology will increase the cost of commercial semi trucks, it can decrease the number of rear-end crashes. That saves time, money—and lives.
Attorney Kevin Coluccio, Seattle Washington