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Big Rigs Making Hampton Roads Highways Particularly Dangerous in 2011

Wednesday April 13, 2001, saw major early-morning tractor-trailer crashes in Portsmouth, near Williamsburg and in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA). All occurred within two hours of each other, and the wreck on I-264 in Portsmouth resulted in the release of hazardous blood plasma and reckless driving charges against the truck driver.

The incident close to the Northampton Boulevard exit near the Virginia Beach-Norfolk line involved several cars and sent an unreported number of people to the hospital with serious injuries. The crash in James City County, VA, also occurred on I-64 and hurt at least one person.

Three such tractor-trailer accidents in so short a time struck as being almost unbelievable. But I soon realized that last Tuesday could just be the culmination of a dangerous, too-often deadly, trend of big rig accidents on the area's roads and highways.

In late March, a driver who fell asleep at the wheel of his truck and plowed into an Eastern Shore restaurant. In February, a propane truck whose driver had became distracted drove into and destroyed the rear end of a bus in Farmington, Virginia. In November 2010, my fellow attorney Randy Appleton and I reached a $3.5 million wrongful death settlement for the 5-year-old daughter of a Portsmouth man killed in a rear-end flatbed truck accident on I-64 in Norfolk. The truck driver in that case violated several Virginia commercial driving laws and allowed his diabetes to go untreated, which may have caused him to lose attention while operating his vehicle.

The catalog of recent trucking accidents in Hampton Roads practically provides a how-to lesson -- a destruction manual maybe -- in injuring and killing drivers while operating a big rig.

The more important lesson to learn, though, is that tractor-trailer, big rig, semi and tanker truck drivers need to drive safely, eliminate distractions, get enough sleep and rest to stave off fatigue and maintain their vehicles in good repair.

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