Fatal truck crashes cause thousands of drivers and passenger of much smaller vehicles to become innocent victims. Our government's inaction as the number of truck crashes surge is maddening. Tragic truck crashes are becoming the the new norm instead of rare events. Just last year here in Dallas and Tarrant Counties, we had these terrible statistics: almost 6,000 collisions involving tractor-trailers tragically took the lives of 53 people and injured over 3,500 others. Crashes between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles often have devastating impacts on motorists. An 18-wheeler easily has a weight of 80,000 pounds in comparison to about 4,000 pounds for a normal car. Here are some recent examples of the effects that truck crashes can have: --- Jeff Kolkman was a 38-year-old father of four and, what his peers considered a “very safe driver.” Kolkman made safety a top priority – until the day that everything went wrong. While he was driving a 2016 Volvo semi down the interstate at 70 mph, he took the time to look down at the black tablet in his right hand. A dash-cam recording in the truck captured Kolkman’s actions until he slammed into the rear of a 2014 Toyota Camry, waiting in traffic outside of West Terre Haute, Indiana. Witnesses say that Kolkman never braked and only slowed down slightly. The dash-cam went black as the truck slammed into the Camry, bringing four lives to a fiery end. ---Former Kansas City TV station executive, Pam Biddle knows the heartache fatal truck crashes cause. Pam, her 23-year-old-son, Aaron Lee, and her ex-husband, Brian Lee, along with Brian Lee’s girlfriend, Stephani Swaim, were passengers in the Camry struck by Jeff Kolkman’s truck. When the crash occurred, the Camry was shoved under a 53-foot flatbed trailer loaded with steel bars. Pam was the only survivor of the crash. The others died instantly. The crash was so hot, the victims could only be identified from the ID in their wallets. It took nearly an hour to scrape the melted soles of Pam’s son’s shoes from the floorboard. --- Demi Arvanitakis was in the rear of a line of traffic, on her way to get a better view of the total solar eclipse. She, and three of her friends, all 19-year-old sophomores at Creighton University, were in her Prius, on their way to Lincoln. The brain injury Arvanitakis received erased her memory from when the semi roared up behind her, crashing into her car. Her friend in the back, Joan Ocampo-Yambing, was a casualty of the crash. Not only does Arvanitakis have to live with her own injuries and the loss of her friend; but also the fear of realizing the passenger sitting just behind her didn’t survive the crash. --- A Toyota Sequoia packed full with eleven people began having engine problems while traveling along I-70. The vehicle had slowed to about 40 mph when a semi traveling 75 mph struck the car from behind. Six of the eleven inside were killed. Although the National Transportation Safety Board said the accident might have been prevented if the trucking company installed the optional collision avoidance system, the organization also blamed the driver of the Toyota for traveling without his hazard lights and having an overloaded vehicle. ---It happened in January of 2012 but the crash still serves as a wake-up call for anyone who believes fatal truck crashes only happen to other people. The story appeared on a recent episode of Dateline. Kelli Groves and her two daughters, Sage, aged 10 years and Mylo, aged 10 months were involved in the crash. A computer demonstration showed how the BMW car the Groves were in was overtaken by a semi as they crossed a bridge in Buellton, California. The semi crumpled the car, dragged it up onto the side of the bridge, and then went over the side, crashing into a fiery mass below. Kelli and her girls were trapped in the crumpled mess. Kelly was in the front of the vehicle, where she was unable to see whether her children were dead or alive. Rescuers spent about two hours trying to get the Groves out of the wrecked car. The position over the bridge with the burning truck below made rescue attempts even more dangerous. All three victims escaped the ordeal. Kelli had a broken pelvis, Mylo only a scrape on her head. Sage had to undergo three surgeries in the hospital followed by therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Her body was cut by glass, requiring more than 100 stitches. Sage also had to spend six weeks in a wheelchair and returned to the hospital for another surgery in 2013 to remove fragments of glass from her ankle. The truck driver who struck the BMW was 48-year-old Charles Allison. He was killed on impact when the truck crashed below the bridge. It was later discovered that Allison was under the influence of both amphetamines and methamphetamine at the time of the crash. The Groves filed a lawsuit against the trucking company that Allison worked for and his estate. Kelli, Sage, and Mylo received a million dollar settlement in 2014 to be divided among the three according to court records. While drug use is one reason truck drivers crash, it isn’t the primary cause.
Most Common Causes of Fatal Truck CrashesBig trucks are a necessary evil, transporting all kinds of goods across our country. In spite of recent legislation designed to address common contributing factors, the percentage of fatal truck crashes isn’t going in the right direction. Before anyone can find a solution, they first have to look at what causes these accidents in the first place.
Leading causes of fatal truck crashes are:
- Distracted Driving
- Impaired Driving
- Overloaded Trucks