Tragedy in Florida Stirs Up Old Fears

Seven members of a single family perished today in a horrific accident in Florida. Apparently a semi-trailer slammed into a stopped school bus and a parked minivan, killing those in the van and severely injuring a few children on the bus. The weather was clear. The road was fine. And I doubt that there were any mechanical problems with the truck. That only leaves us one thing: human fault.

According to eye-witnesses, the semi was going way too fast, apparently over the limit of 60 mph, before it slammed into the stopped vehicles. There was no reason why the truck couldn't see the stopped bus and slow down. Since we don't know the details of the cause of the accident, yet, we could only speculate. My thought is that the truck driver was reckless.

We've all seen these reckless drivers before, out on the open road. As a matter of fact, that was the theme of one of Stephen Spielberg's earliest films, Duel. But we're not talking about road rage here. We're talking about people dying because some truck driver decided that he was king of the road with a 30-ton monster.

I have had my own close calls before. One time while I was on the highway, trying to get off an exit, I almost got side-swiped by a semi that was going at 95 mph, at least. It scared the crap out of me, and if it had hit my car, it would have been fatal for sure. And I'd say 7 out of 10 accidents I've seen on the road involved a semi in some ways. And I have seen enough of these monster trucks racing down the road at over 90 mph to believe there really is a problem, here.

I under that truckers have tight schedules to make and they work long hours, usually with little sleep. I am not sure if I could blame them for driving too fast or without sleep.

My father was a trucker, and I remember him pulling double shifts all the time. He was always tired, and the only time we would see him was the half hour before we went to school, when he would be in bed catching up with his sleep. I couldn't speak to him or hug him because Ma would say, "Don't disturb your father." At least I knew he was safe, at home with us.

So, I know the hardship. Trucking is not an easy job. It's not glamorous, nor does it pay very well. But it's a living, and it paid for many kids' college tuition, as my dad's job did. I have compassion for these hardworking men and women, for I see the shadow of my father in them. Hardworking, down to earth, no nonsense people who put in an honest day of work every time.

Of course, there are bad apples. There is no excuse for recklessness. When you see a stopped school bus, you slow down and stop. On the highway, you don't try to run off another vehicle at 90 mph. You don't tailgate someone and shine your highbeam on them. You just don't.

I put the blame of these behaviors partly on the trucking companies, though. The lack of training could be one thing. The lack of accountability is another. Companies need to be liable for their truckers' behaviors on the road. Once in a while I would see a sticker on the back of a semi that reads: "How am I driving? Give us a call: 1-555-555-5555" and I'd applaud. That's responsible and sensible. That makes the driver think twice about doing something reckless and stupid, because he will be reported and reprimanded (let's just assume the companies really mean it).

Also, in a world of fierce competition and cost reduction, companies would cut corners. They'd hire fewer truckers and have them work longer shifts. They would allow them fewer hours for sleep and meals, and require more hours on the road. Working conditions and benefits could also make the drivers more resentful, resulting in worse road rage when provoked. I don't think alcohol is part of the problem because DUI is strictly prohibited, but I suspect problems may still arise with off-hour drinking.

The bottomline is that trucking companies and drivers must realize there's a problem out there, and it's not isolated cases. Every day truck drivers got into accidents because of carelessness or reckless behaviors, and as more and more trucks get on the road, the problem multiples. Something like the Florida accident should never have happened. Perhaps a lesson can be learned, here. But such lessons are utterly tragic and costly.



Read about the accident here.

Comments

Unique said…
I saw that story, Ray. It's a horrible situation no matter how you look at it.

Too many trucks go way. too. Fast.
I see them on the little, curvy, no shoulder road out in front of my house. I don't even let my cats go out any more. At all. And it isn't just trucks. too fast, too fast, too fast.

A lot of too fast is just selfish inconsiderate behavior. "Mommy" (or Johnny Law) isn't there to "make" them, so they don't. Some folks weren't raised right. Can we shoot them? :)
Ray Wong said…
Yes, and I'll provide the rifles. ;)

I know. I live in a neighborhood where trucks are not allowed, so I feel a little safer. But I see them all over the place and like you said, they go TOO FAST. They're scary. And I drive a small little toy car. If I ever get hit, would someone please come here and take over because I'd be dead. Just a little knock I'd be having dinner with Satan and Hitler in Club Hell.

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