A truck driver who apparently loved to talk on his cellphone while driving killed 11 people, himself and a group of Mennonites on their way to a wedding, in a horrendous accident in Kentucky. But some good may come of that accident last year.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an advisory group, this week called for ban on the use of cellphones by commercial drivers, referencing that accident, where the distracted driver of an 18-wheel semi truck crossed over a median and hit the Mennonite van.
The NTSB recommended banning any cellphone use by commercial drivers except in emergencies.
“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.”
Here is what sparked the NTSB recommendation
On March 26 last year at 5:14 a.m., near Munfordville, Ky., a truck-tractor semitrailer combination unit driven by 45-year-old Kenneth Laymon left the left lane of southbound Interstate 65, crossed a 60-foot-wide median, struck and overrode a cable barrier system, entered the northbound travel lanes, and struck a 15-passenger van, driven by a 41-year-old male and occupied by 11 passengers (eight adults, two small children, and an infant). The trucker and 10 of the 12 occupants of the van were killed.
“Investigators determined that the driver used his mobile phone for calls and text messages a total of 69 times while driving in the 24-hour period prior to the accident,” the NTSB said in a press release. “The driver made four calls in the minutes leading up to the crash, making the last call at 5:14 a.m., coinciding with the time that the truck departed the highway.”
The NTSB also found that the median barrier system, which had recently been installed following another cross-median fatal accident on the same section of I-65, contributed to the severity of the accident because it was not designed to redirect or contain a vehicle of the accident truck’s size.
Because median crossover accidents involving large vehicles are so deadly, the NTSB also made recommendations regarding the use of appropriately designed median barriers on roadways with high volumes of commercial vehicles.
The NTSB issued 15 new safety recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), all 50 states, and the District of Columbia.
The NTSB’s recommended cellphone ban for the estimated 3.7 million commercial drivers in the United States is also being considered by federal regulators. The Department of Transportation has already barred truck drivers from texting while behind the wheel. It is considering banning cellphone use while driving.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
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