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A recent fatal accident on Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, involving a truck and a vehicle carrying seven people, highlighted the role of driver fatigue in causing catastrophic trucking accidents.

Both vehicles were in the same lane of traffic. The driver of the tractor-trailer was behind the vehicle and failed to notice it as tractor-trailer plowed into the rear of the smaller vehicle, sending it out of control and into a ditch where it overturned. Three occupants were ejected. An adult and two children were killed in the crash.

Relatives of the deceased and injured occupants filed a lawsuit alleging negligence.

The accident occurred at a clear, dry night. Various explanations for the truck driver’s conduct are he may have fallen asleep at the wheel, was using his cellphone, or was driving fatigued.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that trucking accidents kill over 5,000 people each year. In 2009, 20 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths from multivehicle crashes involved large trucks, with about 98 percent of those killed being occupants in passenger vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a study on the relative risks and causation factors of large truck accidents. Evaluators looked at 1,000 or fewer aspects of each accident, including the truck’s condition and driver behavior. Fatigue was one of the top 10 associated factors in 141,000 large truck accidents that were studied; this translates into tired drivers being involved in 13 percent of the total accidents.

Federal regulations strictly control truck driver work and rest hours. For example and in simplified terms, a driver is limited to driving for 11 hours and working no more than 14 hours each day. The regulations also prohibit a driver’s use of cellphones and other mobile devices while driving.

Commercial carriers are also required to keep logs or records for each driver to ensure compliance, as well as to have safe or defensive driving policies. In the Kentucky accident, further investigation will reveal if the driver adhered to the rules on driving time, and whether fatigued or distracted driving was a factor in causing the collision.

If you are involved in a crash with a semitruck, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible about potential legal remedies for your injuries and property damage.

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