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Turnpike Trucking Accident Under Investigation: Initial Cause Called into Question

The recent trucking accident on Interstate 77 in West Virginia that cost a North Carolina family their lives demonstrates the danger drivers face all the time when sharing the nation’s roadways with tractor-trailer trucks.

Charges have not yet been filed in the West Virginia crash and new information has revealed a potential different cause of the accident than what investigators initially speculated. The investigation is ongoing.

The collision occurred on April 13th around 5:30 pm in the Camp Creek area of the West Virginia Turnpike when, according to the initial findings, the driver of the truck reportedly crossed the median and struck the passenger vehicle. David and Christine Gilley and their two children were killed in the accident. The driver remains in stable condition with broken bones.

The investigation has since what investigators are describing as, “New information… slowly being uncovered as to how the accident may have happened.” No information about these alternative circumstances has been released to the public.

Sorting through the Details of Deadly Tractor-Trailer Crashes Can Be Tedious

This is not uncommon. What initially appears to be the cause of a wreck might not be the ultimate cause once investigators corroborate witness stories and recreate the events of the accident. There are a number of factors at play and unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine exactly what occurred in the moments leading up to a crash. This is especially true when those involved have lost their lives and are unable to tell their version of the story.

What does this mean for the average driver on the road?

First it’s important to understand how dangerous it is to share the road with tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers. Even under the best of circumstances, these vehicles are deadly.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute reporting on data from the US Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), more than 3800 people died in large truck crashes in 2015, a number that has increased by more than 20 percent in the last decade or so. Only 16 percent of fatalities are the drivers or occupants of the trucks, while 69 percent were occupants of cars and other smaller passenger vehicles.

These numbers should come as no surprise, considering all of the risk factors. Trucks often weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger cars and are taller and have higher ground clearance, which creates a high incidence of cars under-riding trucks in crashes.

Truck braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes, since it takes tractor-trailers as much as 20 to 40 percent longer than cars to stop. This delay is increased when road conditions are poor.

There is also evidence truck driver fatigue plays a role in crashes. Drivers are permitted by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch and up to 77 hours over a seven-day period, and surveys indicate many violate those regulations and work even longer.

What Drivers Should Take Away from these Alarming Statistics

Sharing the road with large trucks is dangerous. And if you or a loved one are involved in a crash that includes a tractor-trailer, you need to retain an attorney familiar with auto accidents involving large vehicles.

An attorney will help to secure preservation of evidence so private experts can inspect the vehicles involved. They’re also able to look at component parts that might be in disrepair or that failed and led to the accident. A private expert is able to analyze the computer data from the black boxes in the vehicles and determine vehicle speed, braking, and other important factors regarding the accident.

Driver records and vehicle service and inspection records are also important pieces of evidence and need to be preserved.

An experienced attorney has access to the experts you need to ensure you are treated fairly and you receive the compensation you deserve if you are a victim in a tractor-trailer crash.