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Icy Weather Increases Risk for Major Trucking Accidents

This winter, two were killed and more than a dozen were injured when a tanker truck skidded off of an icy Baltimore, Maryland highway and then exploded. All of this occurred on Interstate 95 on December 17, 2016. Earlier that morning, the National Weather Service had issued a freezing rain advisory and warned of slippery roads. Unfortunately, the tanker truck accident wasn’t the only crash that morning on Interstate 95. Related to the truck running off the interstate was a pileup that ended up affecting 55 cars. A total of 15 people were taken to the hospital with injuries. The interstate was shut down for hours as authorities responded and took control of the scene.

While wintry weather is something all drivers must pay adequate attention to, drivers of commercial trucks and 18-wheelers must pay particularly close attention. Trucking companies are required to properly train their drivers to handle inclement weather conditions. Part 392 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations states “extreme caution” is required in wintry weather situations, which include snow, ice, and sleet that affect a driver’s visibility or traction. For example, heavy trucks traveling too fast can easily skid when they encounter ice. This could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and run off the road or strike another car. When a driver encounters dangerous conditions, the federal trucking regulations first direct the driver to reduce speed. If conditions persist or worsen, the driver should discontinue use of the vehicle until the weather improves and the vehicle can be safely operated.

Icy weather could cause a truck to jackknife. As part of continuing truck driver education, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides five tips for commercial truck drivers who may find themselves in bad weather while behind the wheel.

  • First, the driver should reduce speed. If roads are wet, speed should be reduced by 33%. If roads contain snow or ice, speed should be cut by 50%.
  • Second, truck drivers should enter curves slowly, as negotiating a curve even at the speed limit can cause the driver to lose control and roll over.
  • Third, drivers should reduce speed before driving onto an entrance or exit ramp. The risk of misjudging the sharpness of the curve increases when conditions are icy and visibility is poor.
  • The fourth tip advises truck drivers to go slower with a loaded trailer. Large trucks with overloaded trailers are 10 times more likely to roll over.
  • The fifth and final tip given is to always go slow in construction zones, especially if lanes have been blocked off.

Proving negligence is often fact-specific, meaning it is important to closely analyze the facts surrounding an accident. In all states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, the plaintiff has the burden of proving a defendant truck driver owed him or her a duty, that the driver breached that duty, and that the breach of that duty legally caused the resulting injuries or damages, such as broken bones, medical bills, and lost wages. To prove a truck driver violated the relevant standard of care during inclement weather, it may be necessary for an attorney to retain qualified trucking experts familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and what they entail.

If you have been hurt as a result of a truck driver failing to properly react to bad weather, contact Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz today for a free initial consultation on your case. You can reach us at 1-800-LAW-4004 or through the online form of our website.