Snow Plow Accidents & Truck Accidents: Dangers of Driver Fatigue

WMUR posted an article yesterday about snow plow drivers and fatigue. It has been reported on the news that many snow plow drivers have been working nearly around the clock for days trying to clear our roadways and sidewalks from the nearly two feet of snow that fell in the blizzard over the weekend. Snow plow drivers reported extremely poor visibility and very high winds during the height of the storm. Many drivers were getting as little as four hours of rest a day. This constant grind and fatigue causes a precarious situation on our roads.

Fatigued drivers are one of the top causes of trucking accidents. Long haul truck drivers often battle the same fatigue as the snow plow operators as they race to finish their haul in time. Falling asleep at the wheel can have hazardous and deadly effects.

During one summer afternoon in 2009, a female college student in Oklahoma fell asleep at the wheel. She side swiped a tractor trailer truck that was parked in the break down lane while the driver was doing an inspection of the cargo. When she swerved back onto the highway, she lost control and spun around. Her car stopped facing oncoming traffic. Traffic stopped and a pileup began to form. Meanwhile, a 76 year old overtired truck driver approached the stopped traffic at 70 mph. He had been driving since 3am and had been recently released from the hospital for a medical condition. He did not apply his breaks. His truck first crashed into an SUV causing it to be pushed off the shoulder and roll over. His truck then drove over two passenger vehicles. His truck came to rest on top of those two passenger cars and part of a minivan which had struck another vehicle causing a chain reaction. When the truck driver was questioned by police he claimed that he has slowed down and stopped and that the other vehicles had driver under him.

In the SUV were a twelve year old girl and her two parents. Both of her parents died at the scene and she was orphaned. Another family was in one of the passenger cars. Of the five which included a 7 year old boy, four died at the scene and one died later at the hospital. In the other car was another family. All four family members died at the scene. Many others involved in the accident suffered injuries and many others were trapped in their vehicles for hours. It was a chaotic mess as emergency crews tried to respond.

This case is an extreme example of driver inattention and likely also falling asleep at the wheel. While that accident occurred in the summer, we are at just as much risk of a serious crash or pileup with the winter weather. Snow plow accidents can be just as dangerous.

Other issues such as driver inattention, failing to follow traffic signals, cellphone use, speeding, equipment malfunction and drug use can contribute to accidents. In Chicago, a snow plow collided with a bus when it ran a stop sign.

Other times accidents just happen. In 2007 in Maine, a man operating a snow plow inadvertently hit his friend who was walking alongside the road. His friend was killed. The driver was not charged. [Source: Bangor News]

Not all trucking and snow plow accidents are the fault of the truck operator. In Dighton, Massachusetts, a woman was operating her vehicle under the influence when she crashed into a snow plow. She was charged with OUI. In New York another drunk driver and snow plow collided. The drunk driver was charged with OUI but the snow plow operator was also cited for failing to yield the right of way. In 2009 in New Hampshire, a snow plow was rear ended by another vehicle and then pushed into a salon. [Source: Seacoast Online]

Most recently in this year, a Pelham man was arrested for crashing his off road vehicle into a pickup with a snow plow attached. He was going at a high rate of speed and in the roadway at the time of the collision.

The moral of the story is that everyone on the road needs to pay attention, follow the rules of the road, and be alert, awake and aware of their surroundings. Drivers should not follow a snow plow too closely or try to pass a snow plow. Give the snow plows room to do their jobs. Drivers should also not follow a large truck too closely and should always be on alert for the fatigued driver who at any time might cause an accident.

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The attorneys and staff at the Injury Law Center® have decades of experience helping clients who have been victims in tragic accidents involving drivers who fell asleep at the wheel and victims of trucking accidents.

Some Examples: We received a $150,000 settlement for a client who suffered a brain injury when his vehicle was hit on the highway by a driver who had fallen asleep. Our firm has also obtained a settlement in the amount of $285,000 for a motorist who was in an auto accident with a driver who skidded on black ice and after his vehicle was left disabled on the highway, he was subsequently hit by a tractor trailer truck. He suffered shoulder and neck injuries. While every case is individual and depends on many factors, some examples of our case results are posted on our website.

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