ATA Cites Truth in Accountability Factorsby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/12/2013
A number of truck crashes on Interstate 90 last week has prompted the Ohio Department of Transportation to install warning signs along westbound lanes entering the state from Pennsylvania. According to Brent Kovacs, of ODOT's District 4 office in Akron, the signs tell westbound truck drivers to stay in the freeway's left lanes and an electronic message board set up near the truck weigh scales repeats the message. “We're hoping the board and signs encourage (truck drivers) to stay in the left lane,” Kovacs said. More than a half-dozen truck crashes were recorded in the same area of the I-90 last week and in many cases, the freeway was shut down to through traffic.
The worst of the crashes occurred Thursday night, when two separate trucks went off the westbound lanes on either side of Route 7 within four minutes of each other. The first involved a truck exiting the north side of the freeway when it veered off down a small embankment and then rolled over onto its passenger side. The driver was unhurt but needed firefighters' help to be freed from the cab, police said. Just a few minutes later, another westbound truck went off the highway a short distance east of Route 7. The driver told police her rig went off the road and wound up in the shoulder, where it tipped over onto the passenger side. The driver and her passenger complained of possible injuries and were transported by ambulance to UH Conneaut Medical Center.
But rather than immediately assigning blame to the truck drivers, police said in both of Thursday night's crashes, as well as incidents earlier in the week, soft soil along the highway was at fault. Because of an I-90 repair project, soil on the shoulder has become extremely soft and if trucks stray just a little bit off the pavement, the wheels instantly sink into the mud, causing drivers to lose control, police said. Also, the truck driver involved in one of the Thursday incidents, along with a number of witnesses, said a small sedan had cut off the truck, forcing it to swerve off the road.
One of many good examples of why the ATA is stressing the importance of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program fairly addressing crash accountability. To stress the point, the ATA also released results from several studies that found car drivers to be far more at fault in causing crashes than truckers. For example, a University of Michigan Transportation Research study assigned factors related to car drivers in 81 percent of crashes compared with 27 percent of truckers. In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, cars were assigned driver factors in 91 percent of head-on crashes; 91 percent of opposite-direction sideswipes, 71 percent of rear-end crashes and 77 percent of same-direction sideswipes.
“Every crash and every fatality and injury suffered on our nation's highways is a tragedy,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “But it is also tragic that carriers and drivers across this country are saddled with guilt and blame for many crashes they could do nothing to prevent.”