Commercial Truck accidents injure over 100,000 Americans every year. In Pennsylvania during 2007, there were 7,087 crashes involving heavy trucks. Of those 7,087 crashes, 178 were fatal.
Despite the human toll associated with trucking accidents, there is comparatively little regulatory oversight of the trucking industry and there are important safety measures that could be implemented, at very little cost and that are implemented in most or all other industrialized nations, that have been ignored in the United States.
I recently found an interesting and insightful website created by the parents of a young man who was killed in a tragic commercial truck accident. Their story deserves retelling:
My rear-view mirror has turned into a time machine. Every now and then when I glance into it, I see my son Cullum backing out of our driveway, waving one last time as he pulls away. Then the truth comes crashing home again: I’m still here, and he’s not.
In 2002, Cullum and his brother Pierce were returning to Washington and Lee University after a visit home for Thanksgiving. They were brothers who were best friends: Cullum a senior, and Pierce a freshman. By June, Cullum would graduate with a degree in business and plans to join the Peace Corps. Sunday evening on Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, traffic slowed to a crawl, then stopped. A half mile behind them, a 70,000-pound truck was traveling 70 miles per hour on cruise control at 7 miles per hour over the posted speed limit—on the busiest traffic day of the year.
In front of him, Cullum saw a sea of taillights. In his rear-view mirror, he saw the headlights of a truck approaching too fast to stop. Pierce said later, “Cullum tried to pull onto the median to save us.” On impact, the car spun 180 degrees, both vehicles left the road and my sons were crushed against a stone embankment in the median.
Trapped inside the car when emergency workers arrived, Cullum died before he could be freed from the wreckage. Pierce, who somehow suffered only cuts and bruises, comforted Cullum as the rescue crews worked. Cullum’s brother, his friend, was with him when he died.
Sometimes when I glance into my rear-view mirror it takes me to another place, where I imagine what Cullum’s life and ours might have been like if he had lived — a loving daughter-in-law? — the blessing of grandchildren who look like him? — a family, whole and complete, sharing everyday moments.
My wife Susan and I have suffered every parent’s greatest horror. For the rest of my life, I’ll be looking in my rear-view mirror.
Co-Founder, Road Safe America
This website is not an “anti-trucking” website. On the contrary, the website argues effectively that commercial truckers are underpaid and overworked. The ideas and proposals here make a lot of sense, would cost little or nothing to implement and are long overdue.
If you’re interested in learning more about the safety measures we’re NOT taking and SHOULD be taking to improve commercial truck safety, go to Road Safe America to learn more.