Friday, December 31, 2010

Beware of the Dangers of Big Trucks

A number of recent accidents involving big trucks have spotlighted the dangers auto drivers face when sharing the road with the 30-ton behemoths.

A tragic crash in Kentucky last week claimed 11 lives, the deadliest two-vehicle highway crash in the state since 1988.

Earlier this month in Hendersonville, an emergency room nurse returning home following her shift died after she hit a trailer that had detached from a big rig.

And a sensational video posted on YouTube earlier this year shows a small car in England trapped on the front of a big truck that pushed it at high speed down the highway.

One out of nine U.S. traffic fatalities in 2008 (the latest year with available data) resulted from a collision involving a large truck, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Of the fatalities that resulted from crashes involving large trucks, 74 percent were occupants of another vehicle, 10 percent were non-occupants, and 16 percent were occupants of a large truck.

Funeral services are today (March 30) for 10 of the people killed early Friday morning when a tractor-trailer on I-65 crossed the median and hit them head-on. The victims were Mennonites headed to a wedding in Iowa in a 15-passenger van when the crash occurred about 100 miles north of Nashville.

Killed in the van were John and Sadie Esh, pillars of a small Mennonite community in Burkesville, Ky.; four of their 12 children; a daughter-in-law; the fiancé of their youngest daughter; a 4-month-old grandchild; and a family friend.

The truck driver from Alabama was also killed.

The only survivors were two grandsons, age 5 and 3, who were pulled from the wreck by an eyewitness in another vehicle.

The 18-wheeler traveled about 425 feet after departing the southbound lane, driving through the median, over a cable barrier, careening into the dark green van, striking a rock wall and finally bursting into flames.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were at the site this weekend starting their investigation. But it may take up to a year to determine a probable cause, according to NTSB vice-chairman Christopher Hart.

Another fatal truck accident this month happened even closer to Nashville. An emergency room nurse was killed in the early morning of March 15 after her car hit the trailer from a semi-truck.

The accident in Hendersonville was triggered when a large empty trash container fell off the truck, operated by Allied Waste Services. The truck also lost its trailer and a Honda Prelude hit it, driven by Freeda J. Simmons from Gallatin.

Ms. Simmons, 50, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she later died. Ms. Simmons had been returning home after her shift in the Vanderbilt emergency room.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating the incident, including whether the trash container was properly secured to the trailer.

More than half a million people have watched a cell phone video on YouTube that shows Rona Williams in her Renault Clio being pushed sideways at 60mph down a busy highway by a tanker truck.

Ms. Williams, a 31-year-old veterinarian from York, England, was headed to work earlier this year when she found her car turned sideways, trapped under the front bumper of the tanker truck. She honked her horn and flashed her lights but could not get the trucker's attention. She said she called police on her cell phone but realized there was nothing they could do to help her.
After a minute, the truck driver realized what was happening and pulled over with her car, which had remarkably little damage. Ms. Williams was unhurt and said the driver did not think the accident was serious, even asking her if he needed to stay around.

These examples may not necessarily represent all wrecks involving big trucks. But you can be sure that almost anytime a car collides with an 18-wheeler, the car and its occupants will come out on the losing end.

And there are undoubtedly many times that an accident occurs because of careless - even wreckless - driving on the part of a car around a big truck. Auto drivers have to be mindful that trucks don't maneuver the same way smaller vehicles do.

Always be aware of traffic around you - big truck or otherwise. Drive careful out there!

Mitch Grissim,

Mitch lives on the lake east of Nashville in Sumner County and attends the First Baptist Church of Hendersonville. When not in the office, Mitch enjoys working out and training for running events. A love for boating led Mitch to obtain his United States Coast Guard Captain's License in 2004, which he puts to use several times a year boating in South Florida along the Atlantic coast, and in the Keys.

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