A federal judge has order a semi driver and his employer to pay St. Louis, Missouri (Mo.), couple a total of $18 million for pain, suffering and past and future medical expenses. The driver, identified by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as Jeffrey D. Knight, was employed by Alabama-based Holmes Transport Inc. when he apparently caused a multiple-vehicle accident on I-64.
Police charged Knight with manslaughter and other felonies following the July 15, 2008, accident in which three other people were killed and numerous other automobile drivers were injured. Criminal and civil cases are still pending.
Authorities believe the crash occurred when Knight reached for his cell phone and lost control of his tractor trailer. Knight also appears to have exceeded his allowable hours for daily driving at the time of the accident.
Federal regulations state that tractor trailer drivers should rest for 10 consecutive hours during each 24-hour period. When a trucker meets this rest target, he or she can then drive for no more than 11 hours out of the next 14 hours.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has produced report after report stuffed with data showing that drowsy and distracted driving top the list of major causes of truck accidents. The agency has specifically called attention to the dangers of drivers using cell phones while moving down the highway, noting that 80 percent of all traffic accidents occurred when drivers took their eyes and attention off the road.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute put cameras in vehicles and determined that reaching for a cell phone increased truckers risk for having an accident by almost 700 percent. Actually using an electronic device to send or read text messages raised the accident risk by more than 2,300 percent.
My colleagues and I have commented many times on the dangers of using cell phones while driving. We’ve also written about the dangers of truckers getting behind the wheel when they have slept too little or logged too many miles in a day. I am pleased that two victims have received some justice following the St. Louis tractor trailer accident. I will be happier when drivers stop putting others in danger by driving while drowsy or distracted.
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