All across the country there have been nearly 500 accidents in recent days, killing at least nine people, caused by ice storms and freezing rain that turned highways into sheets of slick ice. In conditions like this, the greatest danger is always from large trucks and 18-wheelers that can easily jackknife and go sliding into multiple vehicles. Although the apparent cause can be dangerous road conditions, some truck drivers do not adjust to the slick roads, or as the largest vehicles on the highway they are not worried about their own personal injuries if an accident occurs.
Who Is Responsible for Accidents In Icy Conditions?
There is no hard and fast rule for assigning fault in icy conditions. In the event of an accident there can be so many vehicles involved that it can be difficult to determine the exact cause. Memories and perceptions can be confused and exaggerated by the trauma of the accident. However, when an 18-wheeler truck is involved, it usually means that the truck lost control at some point and began to careen into other vehicles. As the vehicle of greatest weight, the truck can start a chain reaction of cars beginning to hit one another, until there can be as many as 10 or 20 vehicles involved in the crash.
The first point of investigation has to be the driver of the truck, and whether they were caught off-guard by conditions, or simply failed to slow down for safety reasons. Many truckers are on tight deadlines and may just attempt to ‘cruise’ through dangerous conditions instead of slowing down and adapting. This attitude can easily result in an accident where a motorist may make an unexpected stop or the truck simply encounters slowed traffic from the weather.
Establishing Liability For Truck Accidents
If the truck tries to stop quickly, it can jackknife and turn into a multi-ton projectile on the highway. Two of the recent deaths occurred from a jackknifed truck that crushed two vehicles underneath its body and axles. Sometimes, the driver cant be blamed, but usually there is adequate warning for truck drivers of dangerous conditions. Electronic highway signs, weather forecasts, in-cab radio and warning systems and the advice of other truckers create a system of communication that makes it hard to miss an approaching ice storm.
If a truck driver could be cited for driving too fast for conditions, and that caused the accident, then that could form one basis for assigning fault and liability. The driver or their employer cannot simply point to the dangerous conditions as the sole cause if the driver failed to adapt to the unsafe roads. It is a tragedy when lives are lost as a result of any impatience on the part of a trucker to simply meet a deadline. While trucking is an essential part of commerce, drivers and their employers should take responsibility for their presence on the roadway, and truckers should not be penalized financially for driving safety and adding a few extra hours to the delivery time.