The week of October 17-23 marked the fourth annual Operation Safe Driver campaign, a collaborative effort among federal, state and local enforcement agencies and the trucking industry to promote safe driving among commercial truck and passenger vehicle drivers.
The program was created in 2007 by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) with the goal of decreasing the number of deadly accidents involving trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles in the US. Nationally, nearly 5000 people die annually in trucking accidents, the equivalent of twenty-six 737 airplane crashes each year.
This year, Operation Safe Driver included roadside inspections of 261 motor carriers who have a record of repeatedly hiring unsafe drivers and continuing to operate their vehicles after receiving out-of-service notices from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency in charge of regulating the trucking industry.
Both of these behaviors violate federal trucking regulations, which are meant to protect the safety of drivers who have to share the road with semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles. Other important federal regulations include the hours-of-service rules, which limit how much time semi-truck drivers can operate their vehicles at one time, and load restrictions. However, not all commercial carriers faithfully follow the federal regulations, and their violations can result in horrific accidents.
In addition to targeting unsafe commercial vehicle drivers and the motor carrier companies that hire them, the 2010 campaign also focused on educating passenger vehicle drivers on safety tips for avoiding accidents with semi-trucks. According to national statistics, 88% of accidents involving passenger vehicles and big trucks are due to driver error. While either vehicle driver may be responsible for the error, the occupants in the passenger vehicle are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in the accident: drivers of passenger vehicles account for approximately 78% of reported fatalities in trucking accidents.
Colorado Trucking Accidents
While it is important that programs like Operation Safe Driver are conducted each year, a week-long program with stepped up safety enforcement and educational programs is not likely to be enough on its own to change driver behavior and improve the safety of the roadways in Colorado.
From 2004 to 2008, an average of 582 people died each year in motor vehicle accidents in Colorado. In 2008, 68 of these deaths occurred in accidents involving large trucks and passenger vehicles. While the number of motor vehicle accident fatalities has decreased in recent years, this number is still too high - especially for those who have lost a loved one in one of these crashes.
There are several characteristics of Colorado roads that make them particularly dangerous. The state's severe weather and mountainous terrain can make roadways deadly for even the most experienced drivers, not to mention for out-of-state truck drivers who are unaccustomed to driving in snow, ice and high altitudes. Driving through a snowy mountain pass or around an icy hairpin curve in a 10,000+ pound truck can be a harrowing experience - and even more so for the driver in a much smaller car coming upon one of these big trucks when it loses control.
Bad weather and resulting delays in Colorado and even in distant locations along a trucker's route can cause drivers to fall behind on their tight schedules. Time is money in the trucking industry and late deliveries are rarely tolerated. Motor vehicle carriers often push their drivers to make their deliveries on time, even if this means driving when they are tired, when the roads are bad or under other unsafe conditions. Orders from dispatchers at far away headquarters can put drivers in impossible positions, causing drivers to make mistakes or act carelessly, like driving faster, neglecting maintenance, inspection or preparation procedures, or driving when they should be sleeping. One mistake by a careless, rushed, stressed driver can ruin another's person's life.
Drivers of commercial vehicles have a duty to drive their vehicles safely in all types of weather conditions and terrain. When they fail to do so, innocent people can be hurt or worse. For more information on your rights following a trucking accident, contact an experienced attorney. Colorado law imposes a limit on the amount of time you have to take legal action. Do not allow this time to lapse without learning more about your options.