In one second, eleven lives were lost. That’s how long records show a call made by driver Kenneth Laymon lasted before he crashed his semi-truck into a van carrying a group of twelve Mennonite family and friends to a wedding in Iowa. The accident, which occurred on March 26, 2010 in Munfordville, KY, killed the driver of the truck. Of the van’s occupants, ten were killed, with two small children the only survivors. The tragedy resulted in an extensive investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and inspired the strictest recommendation on trucking and cell phone use that the agency has made to date.
When the NTSB released their findings on the accident in a recent hearing in Washington, D.C., they pinpointed Laymon’s cell phone use as the main cause of the tragedy. Evidence shows that leading up to the accident, the driver made and received a number of phone calls and texts. At the actual moment of the accident, a phone call was made just as the tractor trailer drifted into the median of Interstate 65. Evidence shows the semi traveled at least 96 feet inside the median before Laymon finally applied the brakes. Rather than steer out of the median, he skidded inside of the median 173 feet before crashing through a cable barrier and into oncoming lanes, traveling another 67 feet before striking the van head on. An NTSB spokesman additionally stated that it appeared Laymon panicked, which possibly explains his failure to maneuver away from oncoming traffic. Driver fatigue was also cited as a contributing factor, as the accident occurred in the early morning hours after Laymon had been traveling for over thirteen hours.
After presenting their findings, the NTSB went on to recommend an extensive change to current laws on cell phone usage among commercial drivers. The agency endorsed a ban that would nationally restrict commercial drivers from calling or texting while behind the wheel. While the agency does not have the authority to enact such a ban, they forwarded their recommendation for action to every state and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Though achieving a complete ban in every state is unlikely, support for such laws is growing. Due in part to this and other recent high-profile trucking accidents, like the fatal collision between a semi-truck and an Amtrak train en route from Illinois to California, lawmakers have begun to more seriously address the problem of driver distraction. Many have already taken some type of action, including 34 states which have banned texting while behind the wheel.
Statistics show that cell-phone use while driving is a dangerous combination. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that drivers who use a handheld device are four times more likely to be involved in a serious accident. And with nearly 3 million commercial truckers in the United States, without laws to curb cell-phone use while driving, serious accidents are more a matter of “when” than “if”. If you are one of the many who have already been injured as a result of a distracted commercial driver, contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer who can protect your rights.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.