Careless Driving Resulting in Death

We recently posed the question of whether revised hours of service (HOS) regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) would reduce the number of people killed by big rig trucks in the United States. If one tragic accident can be representative, the answer is no.

Joe Bell was the father of Jadin Bell, a 15-year old student from La Grande, Oregon who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. Jadin Bell died in February of this year and after a period of soul searching, Mr. Bell set out across America to tell the story of his son and somehow deal with his grief along the way.

On April 20, Mr. Bell set out on foot with a pushcart and a backpack, bound for New York City, where his son had hoped one day to work in fashion or photography. Mr. Bell thought his walk might take two years. Chronicling his journey for thousands on social media and in newspapers as he passed through towns, Mr. Bell spoke where he could about his son, about tolerance and about his grief.

Hobbled by blisters and the ache of rebuilt knees, Mr. Bell made it to about 20 miles north of Kit Carson, Colorado. While walking down the side of a rural road on October 9, Mr. Bell was struck and killed by the driver of a tractor-trailer who had reportedly fallen asleep at the wheel. The driver was uninjured and cited for careless driving resulting in death.

Mr. Bell no longer walks for the change his son needed, nor does he struggle further with grief. Maybe we should.

Will New Truck Safety Regulations Prevent Drowsy Driving Accidents?

Trucks accidents are some of the most devastating on the road, in large part due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicle. In 2011, more than 3,700 people were killed in large truck crashes, while 88,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

To improve truck safety, the federal government has been gradually strengthening its oversight over the industry. In July, new hours-of-service regulations took effect. The new rules restrict the average workweek for truck drivers to 70 hours and require divers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. The goal is to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest before hitting the road.

While truck accidents can have a range of causes — from speeding to equipment failure — drowsy driving continues to be a top concern. It can slow reaction time, make drivers less attentive and impair decision-making, all of which are critical to safely operating an 18-wheeler or other large truck.

Research shows that truck drivers who work long shifts are particularly susceptible to drowsy driving crashes. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that the new hours-of-service requirements will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

To ensure compliance, the new rule requires trucking company to keep detailed and accurate logbooks. Truck carriers that allow drivers to exceed the hours-of-service requirements by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

In addition to improving road safety, the new rules will also be helpful truck accident victims that suspect drowsy driving may be to blame for their injuries. However, to make sure logbooks and other evidence is preserved, it is imperative to speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible.