The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says accidents and fatalities involving semi-trucks are increasing in Oklahoma at an alarming rate. OHP has reported 574 accidents in Oklahoma involving semi-trucks in June, July and the first half of August.
Lt. Preston Lay, a supervisor of the OHP’s Troop S, said distracted driving is one reason for the increase. Troop S is the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit of the OHP.
“Distracted driving” primarily refers to drivers who are talking or texting on their mobile phones. When a truck driver is preoccupied with his or her mobile device, or when a driver sharing the road with a semi-truck is distracted, disaster can result. Although it is not illegal for a standard driver to talk on the phone while driving, it is illegal for the driver of a semi-truck to use any hand-held device while driving.
Other Factors that Cause Truck Accidents
- Fatigue: We all know how dangerous it is to drive when you are sleepy. The danger increases exponentially when you are behind the wheel of a truck carrying 5 tons or more of cargo. The laws governing truck driver “hours of service” are complicated. In a nutshell, a driver is limited to 14 hours of consecutive driving a day, and those 14 hours must include at least 3 hours of breaks.
- Unsafe operation: Truck drivers facing deadlines or drivers running out of hours of service are tempted to speed, change lanes, tailgate, etc., to achieve their goals. Operating a semi-truck in an unsafe way endangers the lives of every other driver on the road.
- Impaired driving: Of course, it is illegal for any driver to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Unsecure cargo: When cargo comes loose, it can fall into the path of oncoming traffic or smash into vehicles’ windshields or cause other drivers to take dangerous evasive actions. This is one reason why it is dangerous to drive too closely behind a cargo-carrying semi-truck.
- Improperly maintained vehicles: It is important for commercial vehicles to be kept in safe working condition. Lt. Lay said that from June last year to June this year, OHP troopers did 28,000 random inspections and stops and found more than 44,000 violations. “Our troopers on a daily basis in Troop S pull trucks over that (are) a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Lay was quoted as saying.
Many Oklahomans do not know about “Star 55.” If you see a truck driver or any driver driving on the highway in way that is endangering lives, or if you are experiencing any kind of highway emergency, dialing “*-5-5” will connect you with the nearest OHP dispatcher. No, it is not against the law to use your cell phone while driving to make the call, although texting while driving will become illegal in Oklahoma starting in November.
Crashes in the OKC Area
During the year-long period from July 2014 to June 2015, the OHP reported more than 1,110 crashes involving semi-trucks in the Oklahoma City metro area, including:
- 896 semi-truck related crashes in Oklahoma County (includes OKC, Edmond, Midwest City).
- 152 such crashes in Canadian County (includes Yukon, El Reno).
- 133 such crashes in Cleveland County (includes Norman, Moore).
Here are brief descriptions of a few recent fatalities in the Oklahoma City area and elsewhere in Oklahoma that involved semi-trucks:
- Aug 20, 2015, Moore: A semi-truck crashed into a car that was broken down and stopped in the inside, northbound lane of I-35. The driver of the stopped car, who was still in the vehicle when the crash occurred, was killed.
- July 20, 2015, Norman: A semi-truck was driving northbound on Sunnylane Road and made a left-hand turn across traffic to reach a destination. A motorcyclist, a 36-year-old Oklahoma City man, driving southbound hit the truck and was killed.
- July 10, 2015, Wellston: A semi-truck and six other vehicles were involved in a crash on the eastbound lanes of Turner Turnpike near the Wellston exit. One person was killed.
- April 23, 2015, Oklahoma City: A Yukon man, 48, was killed while driving in the eastbound lane of I-240 in south Oklahoma City. He was attempting to change lanes behind a semi-truck. The truck stopped suddenly and the driver’s vehicle smashed into the truck.
- April 3, 2015, Mulhall: A tanker truck struck a semi-truck in the northbound lanes of I-35. The semi-truck was disabled and stopped in the outside lane and the shoulder of the highway. When the tanker truck struck the stopped semi-truck, it caught fire and exploded; the driver of the tanker was killed.
If you have suffered a severe injury due to a truck accident, contact our truck accident lawyers for a consultation on possible compensation you could receive for your pain and suffering.