Baltimore Train-Truck Accident Caused by Distracted Driving, Investigators Find
A year and a half ago, a truck collided with a train, causing a serious crash and train derailment. Now, a report from Baltimore-area investigators shows that the truck driver was at fault in the accident, because of distracted driving.
The National Transportation and Safety Board released their final report regarding the train-truck accident that occurred on May 28th, 2013, and their investigators determined that the driver, 51-year-old John Alban, Jr, failed to make sure the train tracks were clear before crossing. However, the board also said that Alban was talking on a phone or hands-free device when the crash occurred.
The train-truck accident led to the derailment of 15 train cars on a 45-car train, which was carrying hazardous chemicals. Explosions on the train injured five people, and caused millions of dollars in property damage.
“An alert driver would have heard the train horn even with the windows closed,” acting NTSB chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a statement on Wednesday, blaming Alban’s use of his hands-free device for distracting him.
Alban was charged with several misdemeanor traffic violations related to the truck accident, but the investigation concluded that he also committed distracted driving violations. Although most states allow drivers, including commercial truck drivers, to use hands-free devices, the laws do not inherently mean that talking on a phone while driving is safe – and many studies show that it is not.
“Current laws may mislead people to believe that hands-free is as safe as not using a phone at all,'” acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said. “Auditory testing done by our investigators found that an alert driver would have heard the train horn even with the windows closed on the approach to the crossing. Time and again, our investigators find that operator distraction is at the heart of accidents throughout transportation in all modes.”
The report called for a ban on any cell phone use, including hands-free devices, for commercial drivers. It further stated that Alban’s trucking company did not have adequate federal oversight which allowed for “a consistent and serious pattern of noncompliance” with federal trucking safety regulations. Commercial drivers were banned from talking on cell phones or texting and driving in 2011, but using hands-free devices remains acceptable.
“Whenever you’re using a hands-free device or any item that can cause a distraction, there is a level of personal responsibility and accountability,” said Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association. “A driver has to use discretion to determine whether they are in an area where they can use a communication system safely.”
However, Champion added that hands-free devices are an important way for drivers to communicate with their overseeing companies. Talking to companies while driving allows drivers to stay informed of traffic accidents in their immediate paths, or areas of congestion that could lead to dangerous scenarios for trucks drivers and the traffic around them.
“We recognize that this is certainly a conversation that needs to be had, as our research indicates that hands-free does not mean risk-free,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, a spokeswoman for driver advocacy group AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We welcome further discussion, which this recommendation from the NTSB will likely generate.”
Trucking Accidents Can Cause Serious Injury and Wrongful Death
Accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles such as semi tractor trailers, flatbed or tanker trucks, buses, or construction accidents can often result in a serious injury or death. Accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles can cause:
- traumatic brain injury,
- severe disability, and
- even death.
If you or a loved one has been such a victim, contact the Strom Law Firm, LLC trucking accident lawyers. Whether you were injured in a bus accident, tractor trailer accident, or any other commercial vehicle accident, we can help. 803.252.4800