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5 Dead, 60 Hurt in Massive Pile Up on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Posted on Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 at 3:32 pm by Williams Hart    

In the early hours of Sunday, January 5th, a deadly crash occurred on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Mount Pleasant Township in Westmoreland county, 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Authorities have reported that a multiple vehicle pile up involving a tour bus, two 18-wheelers, several passenger cars, and a FedEx truck left 5 people dead and 60 others injured. 

While Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Stephen Limani described the incident as an “extremely serious crash”, the injured victims – ranging from 7 to 67 years old – are all expected to make a full recovery, though two patients remain in critical condition. 

While traveling downhill, a tour bus making its way from Rockaway, New Jersey to Cincinnati, Ohio, lost control as it failed to safely maneuver a corner. The bus launched up an embankment, rolled over, and was struck by two 18-wheelers – leading to a chain reaction crash. 

A truck driver from Kentucky came upon the crash and immediately called 911 and waited with the victims until medical help arrived. The highway remained closed for several hours as local fire and medical emergency crews, a hazardous material cleanup company, and a fleet of tow trucks worked the scene. 

The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team of more than a dozen to investigate.

While the wet roads and cold weather may have been a factor in the cause of the crash, officials insist it would be “premature” not to investigate further. 

“It’s a very extensive crash so a lot of work has to be done to get the roadway reconditioned and ready to handle traffic again,” said Craig Shuey, the turnpike’s chief operating officer.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

  • Driver fatigue

According to the Texas Trucking Association, the state is short nearly 50,000 truck drivers and that number is only expected to increase. With a rapidly retiring workforce, lack of interest from younger generations, stagnant wages, and increasing freight loads, truck drivers are burdened with longer working hours and less time to get from point A to point B. 

  • Drug and alcohol use

Legal and illegal drug and alcohol use contributes to nearly 65,000 big rig accidents annually. Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers operating a commercial vehicle is a significant issue. Furthermore, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 22 percent of truck drivers were driving while receiving disability benefits for epilepsy, alcohol addiction, or drug dependence.

  • Texting and driving

The likelihood of being involved in an accident on the road is 23.2 times higher for truck drivers who text while behind the wheel than for those who don’t. 

Other common causes: 

  • Overweight freight loads
  • Improper vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Cargo security
  • Poor road conditions and infrastructure, especially in rural West Texas

Road Fatality Prevention Measures

Road accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles are only expected to increase. While it can be difficult to prevent human errors that cause 18-wheeler accidents, there are measures that can be taken to subdue the number of fatalities that are expected to occur in the future:

  • Drivers must adhere to limited work hours regulations, such as the 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour weekly duty limit. If the demand for new truck drivers is to be met, life on the road must be improved with shorter work hours and more time to rest.
  • Practice safe driving, for both truckers and passenger vehicles.
    • No tailgating, use turn signals, minimize lane changing, stay out of blind spots, use caution in work zones and in inclement weather, and apply breaks early.
  • Logistics professionals must be cognizant of safety measures such as land transportation safety policies, routine commercial vehicle inspections, and proper freight load management that would further reduce drivers’ exposure to fatal road hazards.

Get the Justice You Deserve

Road fatalities and injuries involving 18-wheelers are serious realities for both big rig operators and regular vehicle passengers. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in truck driving accident injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve. 

The Williams Hart


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