There have been a lot of reports in the Florida news this summer regarding deadly trucking accidents. In Brooksville, five people were burned to death in their pickup truck when it was hit by a box truck. The pickup was heading west on U.S. 98 in northern Hernando County while the box truck traveled south on Citrus Way, about 3 miles south of the Citrus County line. Despite a stop sign and flashing red light, the driver of the box truck drove into the intersection without stopping, hitting the pickup, which ignited into flames.
What happened? Officials report that the intersection of U.S. 98 and Citrus Way is notoriously dangerous and residents in the area have complained about the intersection for years. It’s been noted that between 2006 and 2009, there have been 17 crashes with 33 people and two killed at the intersection.
Even after the Florida Department of Transportation installed flashing lights and yellow caution lights for drivers on U.S. 98 in 2007, it still hasn’t been enough. A convenience store owner, located at the intersection, was instrumental in getting the lights installed after collecting more than 100 signatures, but he says they were not enough; they need a traffic light.
In Plantation, Florida, two people were killed on Pine Island Road, just North of Peters Road. One driver lost control of his pickup truck and slammed into a light pole. His passenger died on the scene. The driver climbed out the truck window trying to reach safety. When he was outside, another car struck him and kept driving. The driver died when he was being transported to a nearby hospital.
In Naples, Florida, an early morning crash killed two men: the driver of a box truck and his passenger. Initial reports indicate that the driver of a semi was in the westbound outside lane of Interstate 75 Friday when the box truck collided with his trailer. The box truck, driven by one of the deceased, was traveling faster than the semi and didn’t slow down in time as it approached. A second vehicle struck the semi and somehow got attached, created a three-vehicle collision.
Truck makers Daimler AG, Volvo AB, Navistar International Corp.and Paccar Inc. are working on automated driving systems to take over some of the more tedious aspects of driving these big trucks in an effort to reduce accidents. Some trucks can shift on their own, brake when approaching a slower-moving vehicle, sound an alert when drivers stray into another lane, and show videos of blind spots. Eventually, it could lead to trucks that can drive themselves entirely. But until then what can drivers do to keep safe when driving around large trucks?
One thing, Plantation Fire Chief, Joel Gordon, advises people not to do, is get out of the car and stand in an unsafe spot after an accident. He says, “The biggest thing for everybody to remember is that when you’re involved in an accident, the worst thing you can do is get out in the middle of a highway. If you are gonna exit the vehicle, exit and leave the roadway immediately, but the most important thing is stay in the vehicle, stay safe there until help can arrive.”
Here’s a point to consider. Semi-trucks can weigh anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 pounds and depending on how fast the semi is traveling, it can take up to three times longer to stop than a passenger car. That means, respect the truck. Don’t tail gate, cut off, or swerve in and out of traffic when you’re driving on roads with trucks.
Truck accidents are five times more likely to cause serious injuries and death than accidents involving two or more passenger vehicles. So, wear your seat belts, don’t’ drive when impaired, and pay attention to road signs.