Three fatal semi truck crashes during the first week of June 2010 highlight the dangers and deadly consequences of distracted driving.
The first crash happened near Chicago, Illinois when a tractor trailer driver caused a 9 vehicle crash that killed three people when he was trying to read a map while driving.
The second crash happened on I-55 near St. Louis, Missouri. In that crash a truck driver slammed into slower traffic in front of him after he admittedly "took his eyes off the road."
In the third crash, Carolina News 14 reported that a semi truck crash killed a 21-year-old DOT worker after the truck driver admitted he took his eyes off the road.
Distracted driving is reaching epidemic proportions. Did you know that a distracted tractor trailer driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call? That is precisely why, earlier this year, the US government officially banned semi truck drivers and bus drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel.
One of the deadliest distracted truck driving crashes occurred in Kentucky where a semi truck driver was using his cell phone at or near the time when his eighteen wheeler crossed the median and crashed into a van, killing 11 people on board.
Closely related to distractions is driver fatigue.
Driver fatigue is a particularly dangerous -- and completely preventable -- cause of trucking accidents. Nearly 15 years ago, the NTSB issued a report warning of truck driver fatigue dangers.
The NTSB found that trucker fatigue was a contributing factor in 30%-40% of all diesel truck accidents. The NTSB found that proper sleep patterns are imperative for truck driver safety. Truckers must get 8 hours of continuous sleep after driving for 10 hours or after being on duty for 15 hours for proper safety.
The NTSB just recently issued a warning that truck drivers should also be screened for a medical condition called sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea denies people the rest they need, and it has been found to be a factor in incident involving every transportation mode, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in letters.
Too many people have been killed by semi truck crashes and trucking accidents. Nationwide, large trucks (known as tractor trailers, semi trucks, eighteen wheelers, diesel, big rigs, or commercial trucks) make up only about 3% of the vehicles on the road. However, they account for far more traffic fatalities. For example, in Missouri, semi truck crashes make up as much as 15% of traffic deaths. In Illinois, tractor trailer crashes cause more than 10% of traffic deaths.
Trucking companies and truck drivers need to make sure that crashes like this one stop happening. If drivers need to make a phone call or get directions, they should pull over and make sure they aren't putting innocent motorists at risk.