High Winds, Black Ice, & Blowing Snow
Yesterday, southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado saw driving conditions suddenly turn from pristine to petrifying. Fast-falling sleet, high winds, and a quick dusting of snow transformed highways into slip and slides in a matter of minutes. Interstate 80 was quickly closed, but Interstate 25 remained open, albeit with blazing electronic highway signs alerting drivers to the high winds, black ice, and blowing snow. The transportation department even advised motorists to drive at 45 mph and take their vehicles out of cruise control.
But we all know some drivers, particularly those who operate tractor-trailers and semi-trucks, believe their four-wheel drive pickups or crossovers can negate black ice, recklessly disregard Mother Nature, and ignore the flashing warning signs. If you were on the highways last night, you likely saw a number of drivers zoom past you at speeds of up to 75 mph. And you possibly watched those drivers spin out, fishtail, and crash into the roadside barriers. If you didn’t observe it firsthand (I did, by the way, as my family and I drove south for youth basketball games), you likely drove by a number that had slid off the road into the median or the prairie, now with their emergency flashers on, white knuckles still gripped around the steering wheel.
Thankfully, there were no reports of injuries last night. However, there were several close calls, most of which likely could have been avoided.
Two Massive Pileups Caused by Trucks
In the spring of 2015, Wyoming saw two of the biggest highway pileups in its history. One happened in mid-April during one of Wyoming’s typically massive spring snowstorms, which dropped ten inches of snow in just a few hours. A whopping 70 vehicles were involved in the pileup, most of which were commercial vehicles or semi-trucks. Unfortunately, many of the drivers didn’t slow down in the treacherous conditions and truck after truck slammed into the traffic stopped in front of them.
In today’s world, we live with electronic devices as appendages, so it’s not surprising that some of the collisions were caught on video and have been posted to YouTube, like this one.
The video captures the horror of driving on a highway in the Mountain West, particularly on I-80 in Wyoming and I-25 in Wyoming and Colorado. Miraculously, no one was killed in this accident, but several people were seriously injured, including one of our clients, who broke his femur and sustained a concussion.
Just a couple of weeks after this 70-vehicle pileup, another massive pile-up occurred. This one was also on I-80 but involved thick fog and slush rather than a blizzard. Like the first pileup, this one featured drivers going too fast for the weather conditions. Troopers stated that a semi-truck started it all when it crashed into another truck and jackknifed over both lanes of I-80. Sixty-four vehicles were involved, with several serious injuries, two deaths, and a fire that started the leak of hazardous material.
Trucking Accident Statistics
Thankfully, pileups of this magnitude don’t happen often, but they still happen too often. And too often, they are the result of truck drivers violating nationwide or state standards regarding the safe operation of commercial vehicles. Accidents involving trucks often occur when the driver has not been properly trained and educated, or the drivers and trucking companies are motivated more by money than safety.
The following statistics are telling:
- One out of every eight car accident fatalities involves one or more large trucks.
- When a commercial truck is involved in an accident, 86% of fatalities and 77% of those injured are the drivers and passengers of the smaller vehicles involved in the crash.
- Commercial trucking accidents have been increasing since the early 1990s.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation issued the following figures in a report from 2016:
- There were 13,846 crashes in Wyoming in 2016, 100 of which were fatal, and 2,457 of which resulted in injury.
- Tractor trailers or semi-trucks (light, medium, and heavy) were involved in 20 of the 100 fatal crashes.
- Tractor trailers or semi-trucks were involved in 270 of the 2,457 crashes that caused injury.
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in a Trucking Accident
As with any other accident, victims affected by a truck crash might be left confused, traumatized, and injured. But with trucking accidents, there’s a greater chance that your injuries will be far more serious, or worse, that someone will be killed.
The first thing you must do after a trucking accident is to call 9-1-1 and get medical attention. If you’re able to document the crash or the aftermath with photos or video, do so, but your first concern must be your health and safety.
Your next step is to hire a trucking accident attorney. Unlike a typical car accident at a city intersection, trucking accidents implicate federal and state regulations and safety standards and often require engineers and other experts to reconstruct the scene, download and interpret electronic data, and investigate the employment and driver files of the trucking companies. There can also be issues with vicarious liability, lease agreements between drivers and companies, and issues regarding apportionment of fault.
You will need an experienced truck accident attorney to represent your interests and navigate the complexities of your trucking accident case in order to give you the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve. And while your attorney is focusing on maximizing your recovery, you can focus on treatment and recovery.
Finally, the next time you see adverse weather and advisories on the highways, you might reconsider your travel plans. Even if you are a careful driver, our Wyoming and Colorado highways are filled with those who aren’t. Be smart and be safe!
If you have been involved in a collision with a large truck or other motor vehicle, call our Wyoming accident lawyers at (307) 222-4932 or contact us online.