5 FAQs answered for Missouri semi-truck accident victims

540394_car_accident.jpgIn this post, our Missouri truck accident lawyers answer five questions we frequently hear from the victims of semi-truck crashes.

Missouri semi-truck accidents: Five frequently asked questions

1. What is a commercial truck?
A commercial truck is a large vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds that is used in the transportation of goods or related business. These trucks typically consist of a single-unit truck or tractor and one or more trailers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets a commercial vehicle maximum weight of 80,000 pounds. This means that commercial trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as the average passenger vehicle, and they typically require 20 to 40% farther to come to a complete stop.

2. Are semi-truck accidents more dangerous than collisions involving other kinds of vehicles?
Yes, especially for the occupants of passenger cars and trucks. In collisions involving semis and smaller vehicles, occupants of the small vehicles are considerably more vulnerable to serious, life threatening injury. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 3,413 people were killed in U.S. crashes involving commercial trucks. Of those fatalities, only 14% were the occupants of the commercial trucks. By comparison, 72% of those killed were occupants of passenger vehicles, and 13% were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.

3. What factors commonly contribute to collisions between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles?
There are several factors that often play a role in semi-truck accidents, including the following: driver error; fatigue; distraction; speeding; truck limits (such as braking distance and visibility); equipment failure; and improperly loaded trailers.

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What causes Missouri semi-truck accidents? Three common contributing factors

531576_truck_wheels.jpgAs Missouri personal injury lawyers, we know that accidents involving large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles often have disastrous consequences. More often than not, it's passenger vehicle occupants who suffer serious, life-threatening injuries in these crashes. In 2011 semi-truck accidents, passenger vehicle occupants accounted for 66% of fatalities, while only 16% of the fatally injured were the occupants of large trucks. So, what factors contribute to these devastating crashes? In this post, we discuss three leading causes of accidents involving large commercial vehicles.

Common causes of Missouri semi-truck accidents

1. Driver fatigue. Because fatigue has proven to have an extremely detrimental effect on truckers' driving performance, federal regulations exist to limit the amount of time a driver can spend behind the wheel in a single shift. Unfortunately, some drivers and companies simply don't comply with these regulations. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Large Truck Crash Causation study, 13% of semi-truck drivers who were involved in crashes were found to be fatigued. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that truckers who have been driving for more than an eight-hour stretch are twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

2. Driver distraction. Effective January 3, 2012, federal law prohibits all commercial truck drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while driving. The national ban was enacted in response to several studies that found any form of cell phone use significantly increased a trucker's accident risks. One such study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, found that a "safety-critical event" is 163 times more likely to occur when a truck driver is using a cell phone to text, email, or surf the internet. In fact, simply reaching for a hand-held electronic device makes a trucker about three times more likely to cause an accident. And cell phones aren't the only source of driver distraction: FMCSA officials say eating, drinking, smoking, and fixating on "non-driving related objects" can also increase a truck driver's crash risk.

3. Speeding. FMCSA officials say speed is a key contributing factor in many semi-truck accidents. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that 23% of semi-truck accidents occurred when truckers were traveling too fast for conditions, which is defined as "traveling at a speed that is greater than a reasonable standard for safe driving." Large trucks handle very differently than passenger vehicles, so it's imperative that truckers adjust their speed accordingly when they encounter wet roads, heavy traffic, construction zones, and other potential hazards. Failing to do so can be a fatal mistake.

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"Tailgating" a major cause of Missouri accidents involving semi-trucks

February 7, 2014

Thumbnail image for IMG_8832a.jpgHave you ever wondered how following distance - the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle traveling in front of you - plays a role in Missouri truck accidents? You might have noticed that when traffic is heavy, the distance between the front and rear bumpers tends to be smaller. It can even become a fight to keep the distance small enough to prevent another vehicle from cutting in front of you. The problem with this particular driving behavior - known as "tailgating" - is that it is a major contributor to many Missouri traffic accidents. And when it comes to truck accidents, following too closely is not only a contributing factor: it can cause increased damage and serious injury or death.

Missouri Accident Statistics

  • Of the major cities, 15.8 percent of tractor trailer and truck accidents occur in St. Louis, 15.1 percent in Kansas City, 5.1 percent in Springfield. The highest number of truck accidents occur on U.S. highways, followed by interstate and state numbered roads. The highest number of property damage accidents happen on city streets. The vast majority of truck accidents are, of course, along the major highway thoroughfares of I-70 and I-44.

  • In 2010 commercial vehicles, which includes trucks, tractor trailers and buses, were involved in 9 percent of all traffic accidents in Missouri. That percentage is even greater for fatal traffic accidents (12.6 percent).

  • In 2010 105 people were killed and 4,007 people were injured in accidents involving a big truck, tractor trailer, or other commercial motor vehicle.

  • Over half of these accidents, 58.7 percent, occurred in an urban area, however of all the fatal crashes, 72.2 occurred in a rural area, along those major truck routes.

  • 25 of the people killed were drivers.

  • 86 percent of truck or bus accidents occurred on a straight road

  • 69 percent occurred on a level road

  • 29 percent occurred on a hill

  • 79 percent occurred on dry roads

  • 14.5 percent occurred on wet roads

Truck accidents are equally distributed throughout the year and mostly occur on week days. While truck accidents occur around the clock, a significant number occur between 7 am until 7 pm, when big rigs share the road with passenger cars and light trucks.


Given this data, it is clear that semi-truck accidents are extremely dangerous, particularly for the drivers of passenger vehicles. Leaving plenty of room between you and another vehicle is one of the best ways to avoid a serious truck accident. A large truck takes a lot longer to stop and has a massive amount of force - so be patient and give yourself plenty of room, just in case.

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Avoiding semi-truck accidents: Five tips for Missouri drivers

January 24, 2014

truck-768072-m.jpgSharing the road with a semi-truck can be challenging, especially when traffic is heavy or road conditions are bad. In this post, our Missouri truck accident lawyers provide five tips to help you avoid being involved in an accident with a large commercial vehicle.

Preventing semi-truck accidents: Five tips for Missouri drivers

1. Pay attention. Of the thousands of car accidents that happen in the United States every year, very few are unpreventable. In fact, all too many of these accidents occur simply because drivers aren't paying attention - a mistake that can be deadly, especially if you're traveling near a large truck. Put away your phone, have a passenger tune the stereo, and don't be a rubbernecker - someone who gets distracted by objects or happenings outside their vehicle, like another car accident. Keeping your eyes - and your focus - on the road can go a long way toward preventing many serious accidents.

2. Don't linger in a large truck's blind spot. Annually, experts say over 413,000 accidents are caused by blind spots, and specifically, one-third of fatal accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a semi occur within a semi's large, dangerous blind spots, which are known as "No Zones." These spots are located to the left and right of the truck's cab, immediately in front of the truck, and behind the trailer. Here's a good rule of thumb: if you can't see a truck's mirrors, the driver can't see you. When you're passing, following, or changing lanes near a semi, be mindful of the truck's blind spots and proceed with caution.

3. Don't cut off a semi-truck. Because they are large and extremely heavy, semi-trucks require twice as much time and space to stop than average passenger vehicles , and that's when roadway conditions are good. If you cut in front of a semi, the driver may be simply unable to stop in time to avoid a collision.

4. Be predictable and use your signals. Since truck drivers need extra time to react to roadway hazards, you can help make the road safer by making your intentions clear and predictable. Maintain a consistent speed, pass on the left side, and be sure to signal in advance (at least three full seconds) before turning or changing lanes.

5. Be respectful of other motorists, including truck drivers. A little common courtesy can go a long way. Remember that everyone on the road is trying to get from Point A to Point B: stay calm, be patient, and make safety your top priority.

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Alcohol involvement suspected in fatal Missouri semi-truck accident

November 8, 2013

ambulance-ecnalubma-677683-m.jpgAs Missouri semi-truck accident lawyers, we know that large, heavy semi-trucks can act as deadly weapons, particularly when they're involved in collisions with average-sized passenger vehicles. And when semi-truck operators choose to drive under the influence, their vehicles become even more dangerous to other motorists on the road.

Recently, a semi-truck driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of assault after he allegedly caused a fatal crash in Platte County. According to the Kansas City Star, 38 year-old Adam Shaw was northbound on Missouri 45 when his tractor-trailer crossed the highway center line. The semi clipped a pickup truck, forcing the smaller vehicle to run off the road, and then the semi hit a southbound minivan head on. The driver of the minivan, 49 year-old Catherine Nienaber, was pronounced dead at the scene, while her passenger (Nienaber's seven year-old son) was taken from the scene by ambulance with serious injuries. The driver of the pickup also suffered non-life threatening injuries in the incident.

Law enforcement officials say they believe alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident. Shaw is currently being held in the Platte County Detention Center on a $250,000 cash bond. Authorities continue to investigate, and Shaw could face additional criminal charges depending on their findings.

Semi-truck drivers and alcohol use

• Under regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), semi-truck drivers are not allowed to use alcohol or be under the influence of alcohol within the four-hour period "before going on duty or operating, or having physical control of, a commercial motor vehicle." They're also prohibited from using alcohol, being under the influence of alcohol, or having "any measured alcohol concentration or detected presence of alcohol" while on the job.

• When drivers are found to have violated these regulations, they are immediately placed out of service for the following 24 hours, and they are required to report the incident to their employer (within 24 hours) and to a state official (within 30 days).

• When truck drivers' alcohol use is believed to have contributed to an accident resulting in injuries or fatalities, drivers are required to undergo immediate testing for controlled substances and they must submit to an evaluation conducted by a substance abuse professional. They may also face suspension and the ultimate loss of their commercial driver's licenses, along with being subject to criminal charges, their accompanying penalties, and personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits filed on their victims' behalf.

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Truck drivers' medical conditions can increase accident risks for Missouri drivers

October 23, 2013

medical-doctor-1314902-m.jpgAs Missouri truck accident lawyers, we know that collisions involving semis and average-sized passenger vehicles can have catastrophic consequences, often for the occupants of those smaller vehicles. To operate a semi-truck safely, drivers must be skilled, proactive and alert to the actions of other vehicles traveling near them. When truckers suffer from certain medical conditions, they increase accident risks for everyone on the road.

This week, a semi-truck driver plowed through a Colorado intersection, causing a wreck involving 13 vehicles and leading authorities to believe that he experienced a medical emergency while behind the wheel. According to 7NEWS in Denver, the semi-truck was westbound on a roadway in Cherry Hills Village when it failed to stop at the intersection and rear-ended several vehicles stopped there. Witnesses say the semi then continued on, knocking down a power pole and ultimately coming to a stop in a grassy area in an apartment complex.

"When my car got jostled, I was almost like - it was a joke - like, 'Who's pushing me,' but then I looked over and there's a big, giant truck cab rolling, just barreling through the intersection, and I was like, 'Oh, this is really happening,'" said Thomas Ogans, one victim of the crash. "And then as that happens, a bunch of glass hits me in the face. Glass everywhere, sparks was flying, it was just like out of a movie. I was scared out of my mind." Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured: four people - including the truck driver - were injured in the accident and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a new rule that requires truck drivers to undergo official medical examinations performed by health providers who are specifically trained and certified. FMCSA's Office of Medical Programs works to keep truckers off the road if they have a medical condition that could threaten the safety of motorists traveling near them. Its mission "is to promote the safety of America's roadways through the promulgation and implementation of medical regulations, guidelines and policies that ensure commercial motor vehicle drivers engaged in interstate commerce are physically qualified to do so."

According to the Mayo Clinic News, the federal rule also works to make drivers, trucking companies and examiners accountable for their actions. "If something bad happens, if an accident occurs and property or individuals are somehow affected, the examiner may get added scrutiny if they haven't done a comprehensive medical evaluation or a glaring medical condition was not addressed," said Dr. Clayton Cowd, M.D.

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Passengers file personal injury lawsuit after tour bus is struck by semi-truck

September 25, 2013

old-style-no-u-turn-202604-m.jpgAs Springfield auto accident lawyers, we've noted reports of several serious tour bus accidents this year. Some of these crashes had serious consequences - including passenger injuries and fatalities - and, in many cases, the accidents were caused by the unsafe actions of tour bus drivers and/or their employers.

Last week, two people were killed and four others were injured when a Texas tour bus was struck by an 18-wheeler on a Panola County highway. According to the Longview News Journal, the accident occurred after the bus driver was informed that a passenger had been left behind at a truck stop. In response, the bus driver reportedly attempted to make a U-turn at a crossover and turned into the path of the semi-truck, which hit the left side of the tour bus. One passenger, who was ejected through a side window, and the bus driver, who was ejected through the front windshield, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Three other passengers were taken from the scene by ambulance, while the semi-truck driver was airlifted to East Texas Medical Center with incapacitating injuries.

Today, the News Journal reports that two of the injured passengers have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the tour bus company, El Expreso in Houston. Edgar Vela and Sergio Torres are reportedly suing the company for damages including medical expenses, loss of wages, physical impairment, pain and suffering, disfigurement and mental anguish. The suit alleges that El Expreso "committed actions of omission and commission, which collectively and severally, constituted negligence, and which were proximate causes of the injuries suffered" by Vela and Torres.

News of the accident - and the resulting lawsuit - came in the weeks following an announcement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which revealed that federal investigators had launched a "strike force of passenger bus safety inspections" throughout the country. These inspections are designed to keep high-risk busing companies and drivers off our nation's roads. "Aggressive strike force inspections help save lives on our roadways and protect people who travel by bus," said Administrator Anne S. Ferro in a FMCSA news release. "Strong enforcement efforts will increase safety and reduce serious crashes that result in death and injury."

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Memorial sign honors state trooper killed by trucker who fell asleep at the wheel

September 11, 2013

candle-1281538-m.jpgAs Missouri truck accident lawyers, we know that the average passenger vehicle is no match for a semi-truck. Research shows that passenger vehicle occupants are extremely vulnerable to life-threatening injuries when they're involved in collisions with semis. And if vehicle occupants have increased safety risks, you can imagine the dangers facing pedestrians.

Recently, law enforcement officials in Illinois erected a memorial highway sign to honor a state trooper who died last year when a semi-truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel and struck the trooper as he conducted a routine traffic stop. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 32 year-old Kyle Deatherage had just returned from New Jersey when the accident occurred, where he had traveled with 28 other troopers to help assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy. On November 26, Deatherage pulled over a vehicle on northbound Interstate 55 and was speaking with the driver when he was hit by the semi. Deatherage was pronounced dead at the scene.

Following an investigation, the semi-truck driver, 52 year-old Johnny Felton, was charged with several criminal offenses, including reckless homicide, failing to slow down or change lanes to avoid Deatherage, and operating a commercial vehicle without a valid driver's license. Felton currently awaits trial: if convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. Deatherage's wife and children have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both Felton and his employer, Dot Transportation Inc. (DTI).

In the months following the crash, attorneys representing the Deatherage family have uncovered alarming allegations against Felton that date back over three years. A October 2009 memo from a DTI manager points out that Felton had already been involved in three at-fault accidents and accused him of falling asleep at the wheel, falsifying his log book, driving more than the mileage allowed by federal law, and failing to attend safety meetings. Instead of taking him off the road, however, DTI officials reportedly sent him for more training. "This corporation makes four billion in sales a year. Those profits rely on drivers," attorney Thomas Q. Keefe told the Belleville News-Democrat. "They had knowledge that this man was a real and actual danger more than three years before he killed this young trooper, husband and father and they let him drive."

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Teen driver dies after collision with semi-truck

semitrucksunset.jpgBoth state and federal crash data has proven, time and time again, that young drivers have the highest risk of involvement in car accidents that result in injury. Because they lack experience, teenagers have a more difficult time assessing roadway situations and responding to them in a safe and prudent manner. When a teen driver is involved in a collision with a large commercial vehicle, like a semi-truck, our Missouri truck accident lawyers know that the stakes are even higher.

Recently, an Iowa teenager was killed when his SUV was struck by a semi-truck and subsequently rolled over into a ditch. According to the Des Moines Register, 17 year-old Rodrigo Lopez was eastbound on Interstate Highway 80 when he attempted to merge into the right lane and was struck by a semi already traveling in that lane. Lopez was taken from the scene by ambulance, but he later died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. Another semi traveling nearby was also damaged by debris created by the initial collision, law enforcement officials report. Investigation into the crash continues.

Facts about teen car accidents:

• Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 2,700 teens between age 16 and 19 were killed - and about 282,000 were injured - in 2010 auto accidents.

• While young people between age 15 and 24 only account for about 14% of the U.S. population, they represent about 30% of total costs connected to auto accident injuries nationwide.

• Drivers between age 16 and 19 are the most likely to be involved in car accidents: per mile driven, they're three times more likely to crash than older, more experienced drivers.

• Unsupervised teen drivers are more likely to crash when they're driving with teen passengers on board - and the crash risk increases in accordance with the number of passengers.

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Court of Appeals upholds federal regulations that aim to reduce semi-truck driver fatigue

truckfatigue.jpgCrashes involving semi-trucks and smaller passenger vehicles are all-too-often deadly. As Missouri truck accident lawyers, we know that these collisions are often linked to certain common contributing factors. One particularly common factor is truck driver fatigue: truckers often work long hours without adequate rest, and research has proven that fatigue has an extremely detrimental effect on driving performance. Fatigued truck drivers can pose a serious threat to roadway safety, especially for the passenger vehicle occupants who happen to be traveling near them.

Recently, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in Washington upheld U.S. Transportation Department regulations that work to reduce auto accidents caused by fatigued truckers. According to the Insurance Journal, the ruling "maintained an 11-hour limit on truckers' driving day and a 34-hour rest period each week that would require drivers to be off two consecutive nights." These regulations may reduce productivity in the trucking industry by as much as three percent, but officials say "they weighed industry costs against billions of dollars in health-care savings and reduced accidents in a profession that has more on-the-job deaths than any other in the U.S.," reports Bloomberg.

Missouri truckers and fatigued driving: Facts and statistics

• In 2011, 3,373 people were killed in U.S. accidents involving large trucks. Of those fatalities, 66% were passenger vehicle occupants, 16% were large truck occupants, and 16% were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.

• Compared to 2010, fatal accidents involving large commercial trucks increased by two percent in 2011, and injuries increased by 10%, NHTSA reports.

• Truck drivers who have been on the road for more than an eight-hour stretch are twice as likely to be involved in an accident. In fact, being awake for an eighteen-hour time period is like having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit for drivers.

• The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), found that about 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers reported being fatigued at the time of their accidents.

• Sleep deprivation increases a driver's risk of having a fatigue-related accident: the less sleep you get on a nightly basis, the greater your risk of causing a crash. Drivers who only sleep six to seven hours per night are two times more likely to crash, compared to drivers who sleep a full eight hours per night. Drivers who sleep less than five hours a night are four or five times more likely to be involved in an accident.

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Vehicle related road debris from semi-trucks can cause serious, life-threatening injuries

1191524__broken_window.jpgAs Missouri personal injury lawyers, we know that accidents involving semi-trucks often cause catastrophic injuries to passenger vehicle occupants. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one especially dangerous kind of semi-truck accident involves vehicle related road debris (VRRD), which is "material - vehicle parts or cargo - that has been unintentionally discharged from a vehicle into the roadway." An AAA report found that VRRD causes an estimated 25,000 accidents in North America every year, which result in approximately 80-90 fatalities.

Recently, a Texas woman was killed and her one year-old child was injured when vehicle parts broke off an 18-wheeler and smashed through the windshield of her SUV. KDFW in Dallas reports that 33 year-old Zackquelyn Johnson died when a metal brake drum either fell or broke off of a semi on Interstate 20 and struck her Jeep Liberty. The impact from the debris caused Johnson to run off the road and collide with a road sign and a rest area park bench. The truck driver did not stop at the scene, and investigators say he is likely unaware of what happened. Johnson was taken from the scene by ambulance, but she died as a result of her injuries two days after the accident. Her child remains hospitalized.

Falling debris from large trucks can pose a large threat to other drivers on the road, especially since there's no way to predict when you will find such debris in your path. It can hit your vehicle, crash through your windshield, or require you to make a sudden, dangerous lane change to avoid the unexpected obstacle. Truck debris and unsecured cargo (including automotive parts, scrap metal, gravel, truck tire recaps, equipment and machinery) create especially frightening risks to motorists who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Accidents like these are all the more tragic because they're totally preventable, with proper maintenance and care.

Last December, a Lake St. Louis man was killed by logging equipment that fell from a truck on Champ Clark Bridge. 40 year-old Kyle David Brown died after a logging truck struck a guardrail on the bridge, causing log dragger equipment to break loose and fall in front of Brown's SUV. Brown's widow and his two minor sons have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver involved. And in October, a jury awarded $3.2 million to a Pennsylvania woman whose husband died when his vehicle was struck by a piece of mining equipment that was not properly secured to a semi-truck.

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New FMCSA regulations aim to reduce Missouri semi-truck accidents caused by driver fatigue

dangerous_truck.jpgThe U.S. Department of Transportation reports that between 3,000 and 4,000 people are killed annually in accidents involving semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles. What's more, statistics show that the occupants of smaller passenger vehicles are the most likely to die in these crashes. Because a loaded semi can weigh 20 to 30 times more than the average car, our Missouri truck accident lawyers know that these collisions commonly cause serious, life-threatening injuries. In 2011 fatal two-vehicle accidents involving a semi and a smaller car or truck, the smaller vehicle occupants accounted for 98% of deaths. Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced new regulations that aim to reduce fatal truck accidents by further restricting the amount of time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel.

The new federal regulations for commercial truck drivers include three key provisions:

1. Drivers are required to take a 30 minute break during their first eight hour stretch on the road.

2. Drivers may not exceed their maximum drive time each week, which has been lowered from 82 hours to 70 hours.

3. Once they reach the 70 hour limit, drivers must take a 34-hour off-duty period in order to "restart" their work week. This off-duty period must include at least two nights where the driver sleeps from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

In a FMCSA news release, Administrator Anne S. Ferro predicted that these new regulations will have a profound effect on roadway safety by addressing the problem of driver fatigue. "These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach," Ferro said. "The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives."

Semi-truck drivers and fatigue: The facts

FMCSA's Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that fatigue is a contributing factor in 13% of semi-truck crashes.

• According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, truck drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than eight hours in a single stretch are twice as likely to be involved in an accident.

• Research suggests that a lack of sleep affects driving performance in a way that is similar to alcohol use. When a driver has been awake for a full 24 hours, the effect is the equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%.

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Two killed, several injured when freight train collides with small bus

Our Missouri personal injury lawyers know that auto accidents involving trains often result in serious, life-threatening injuries to the occupants of other motor vehicles. According to Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization that promotes rail safety, a locomotive can weigh anywhere between 200 and 6,000 tons, which means the weight ratio of a car to a train is similar to the weight ratio of a soda can to a car. And because of its size and weight, a freight train can't just stop suddenly when an obstacle appears on the tracks. At 55 miles per hour, an average locomotive requires more than a mile to come to a complete stop.

Recently, a Pennsylvania bus driver was charged with multiple criminal offenses after his bus was involved in a fatal collision with a freight train. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 59 year-old Frank Schaffner currently faces numerous charges in connection with the crash, including two counts of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter, ten counts of assault by vehicle, one count of reckless endangerment, and one count of failure to stop at a railroad crossing,

On the morning of April 26, investigators say Schaffner was behind the wheel of a twelve-seat bus carrying elderly and special-needs passengers. A surveillance video reportedly shows Schaffner failing to slow as he approached a railroad crossing, even as an oncoming train sounded its horn and bus passengers called out warnings. Ultimately, the train struck the bus, pushing it 20 feet and causing it to spin 180 degrees into a ravine, reports the Ellwood City Ledger. Two passengers, 91 year-old Claudette Lee Miller and 88 year-old John Burkett, died as a result of their injuries.

Pennsylvania law requires buses and other commercial vehicles that transport passengers to stop between 15 and 50 feet away from railroad tracks. Schaffner's attorney, Michael Pawk, said foggy conditions and a lack of crossing signals (like lights and gates) contributed to the crash, but police say the fog was light when the collision occurred. Investigators allegedly found pills in two prescription bottles belonging to Schaffner that did not match the labels, but it's presently unclear what toxicology reports revealed.

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Semi-truck driver jailed after fatal hit and run accident

1141363_school_rules.jpgOur Missouri personal injury lawyers know that pedestrians are extremely vulnerable to serious, life-threatening injuries when they're involved in motor vehicle accidents. And when the vehicle is a large commercial truck weighing more than 10,000 pounds, the consequences of a crash can be even more catastrophic. Sadly, a recent semi-truck accident involving a young pedestrian getting off a school bus illustrates just how devastating these collisions can be.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared a North Carolina truck driver to be an "imminent hazard to public safety" after he struck and killed a child and left the scene of the accident. On April 23, authorities say a logging truck driven by 37 year-old Johnny Allen Spell passed a stopped school bus, struck a first-grader who was getting off the bus, and kept going. The child, 7 year-old Alyiah McKenzie Morgan, died en route to the hospital. According to WNCN-TV, the school bus's red lights were flashing and its stop sign was out at the time of the crash.

Within hours, police responded to a tip and located Spell and his vehicle about 30 miles away from the accident site. Spell has since been charged with numerous criminal offenses, including involuntary manslaughter, hit and run, driving while impaired and passing a stopped school bus. Thus far, investigators have declined to say whether Spell was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the accident occurred. At present, he is being held in the Sampson County Jail on a $200,000 bond.

Spell reportedly has a criminal history that dates back to 1993. Official records indicate that he was also charged with DWI in 2008, and he was cited for driving without an operator's license only a week prior to the accident. Spell also has multiple drug convictions on his record, and it's unclear why his employer had allowed him to drive the logging truck in the first place.

A few days after Spell's most recent arrest, FMCSA officials ordered him not to operate any commercial vehicle and also launched an official investigation into his employer, Ricky Lucas Trucking. "FMCSA will continue to assist state and local law enforcement officials, who are leading the investigation, in every way possible," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro in an official news release. "We demand that commercial drivers operate their vehicles with a high regard for public safety."

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Unsafe bus companies, drivers targeted by FMCSA after recent fatal accidents

1119802_bus.jpgOur Missouri personal injury lawyers know that bus accidents can have catastrophic consequences for passengers. Sadly, all too many of these crashes are caused by unsafe motorcoach companies and their drivers. Over the past two months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has shut down 15 bus companies nationwide, including seven passenger carriers that were declared imminent hazards to public safety and eight that received "unsatisfactory" ratings following safety compliance reviews.

According to a FMCSA news release, the agency recently deployed "more than 50 specially trained safety investigators throughout the country to begin targeted and in-depth inspections of higher risk motorcoach companies." This crackdown on bus safety comes in the wake of several recent bus accidents that resulted in multiple injuries and fatalities.

• March 2013, Pennsylvania: Three people were killed and three others were hospitalized with injuries when a bus carrying the Seton Hill University women's lacrosse team ran off the road and crashed into a tree. Among the dead were the team's coach, who was six months pregnant; her unborn child; and the bus driver. Investigators say there were no intoxicants found in the driver's system and suspect he may have suffered a sudden traumatic medical event.

• February 2013, California: A tour bus rear-ended a car as it descended a mountain road near Big Bear, causing the bus to overturn and collide with a pickup truck pulling a trailer. Eight passengers were killed and 38 were injured in the accident. The driver, who survived the crash, reportedly told police that the bus experienced brake problems as it traveled down the mountain.

• December 2012, Oregon: Nine people died and 39 were injured when a tour bus skidded off an icy highway and slid down a 200-foot embankment. An investigation found that the bus driver was traveling too fast for roadway conditions and had been on duty for 92 hours in the week leading up to the crash, exceeding the federal limit of 70 hours.

• August 2012, Illinois: A Megabus traveling from Chicago to Kansas City crashed into a concrete median on Interstate 55, killing a University of Missouri student and injuring 38 other passengers. According to the Illinois State Police, the accident was caused by a blown tire on the double-decker bus, which was loaded to capacity. The crash prompted a FMCSA bulletin about weight limits for tires on fully-loaded buses.

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