A tractor-trailer driver who could not reduce speed quickly enough while approaching a slowdown on I-81 in Montgomery County, Virginia (VA), caused a four-vehicle wreck that killed one person and sent two others to hospitals with injuries. The August 21, 2017, wreck happened on the descent from Christiansburg Mountain, just past the exit to Route 11 toward Ironto.
According to television station WSLS 10, the semi came up on two lanes of traffic that has suddenly reduced speed. The truck driver then “veered into the left lane … and sideswiped a passenger car.” The tractor-trailer continued into the rear of a second car, pushing that car into a box truck.
News reports do not specify which vehicle the woman who lost her life was in. It is also unclear what types of injuries the survivors suffered, but reporters characterized the wounds as non-life-threatening.
During 2015, according to data compiled by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation, 4,978 commercial vehicle crashes happened in Virginia. Seventy-five of those wrecks resulted in at least one death, while 1,988 inflicted personal injuries. Among the commercial vehicle crashes that could be blamed in some part on driver error, the leading causes were following too closely, improper lane change and failure to yield.
Each of those negligent or reckless behaviors appears to have played some role in this deadly crash on I-81 in Montgomery County. The failure to yield that resulted in the tractor-trailer rear-ending the car can be explained by the great deal of stopping distance a semi requires. An analysis published by the Utah Department of Transportation indicates that a fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 65 mph needs 525 feet to come to a stop. And that is on a test track, where complications such as the time and distance a truck driver must take to recognize and react to the need to stop are not taken into account.
My Virginia wrongful death attorney and personal injury lawyer colleagues and I see too often how distracted or speeding commercial truck drivers cause serious and fatal rear-end collisions. We also often encounter cases where semis and other heavy trucks take to the highway with poorly maintained and improperly inspected brakes. Because their rigs can inflict so much suffering, truck drivers must make every effort to stay alert, respond safely to changes in traffic conditions and ensure their vehicles are in good repair.