A crash in June 2016 that resulted in six fatalities and five injuries may have been lessened or prevented entirely if enhanced safety standards were implemented and a crash mitigation system had been installed. Both vehicles, a tractor trailer and an SUV, were traveling under conditions that contributed to the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash and found multiple contributing factors. The SUV was filled beyond its seven-person capacity, with eleven passengers. It was also reported the SUV was suffering from mechanical problems and the extra weight kept it from going much faster than the minimum speed limit of 40 mph.
However, the driver of the tractor-trailer, age 27 at the time with three years of experience, was sleep-deprived. He had slept for no more than five hours within the day leading up to the crash after inverting his sleep schedule from the week before. His truck plowed into the rear end of the SUV after he tried to avoid the crash by braking and veering to the left. This was at 2:15 am, a time of low visibility, meaning the driver did not notice the SUV until it was too late. This happened while traveling near the 75 mph speed limit on cruise control, 30 mph faster than the SUV.
The logbook of the tractor-trailer driver was found to be inconsistent, raising questions about safety.
In addition, it was found that more than half of the driver's logbook entries were inconsistent with other records. These findings resulted in the trucking company being issued an unsatisfactory safety rating after a compliance review following the crash and its operating authority was revoked.
The NTSB determined this crash could have been prevented or made less severe had proper safety precautions and a crash mitigation system been implemented. This tragic event highlights the need for the implementation of the board's 15 Most Wanted List, a compilation of safety regulations that could prevent these kinds of crashes and others. The list includes the previously mentioned collision avoidance technology but also aims to reduce driver fatigue and improve medical fitness.
It was a combination of factors that led to this accident. However, the truck driver's failure to take effective action to avoid the crash and his fatigue were the primary contributing factors. Commercial truck drivers are held to higher legal standards than motorists because their vehicles are so difficult to handle. If you or someone you love was the victim of an accident involving a tractor-trailer, contact our office today.