A trucker burned to death in his cab Friday when a
74-year-old driver who was stuck in traffic on a highway entrance ramp drove
around two cars and a yield sign, swerved into traffic and rammed into the side
of the big rig.
The July 29 wreck on Pennsylvania Route 581 occurred at
about 7 a.m., just after the trucker had finished his morning produce delivery.
His family members asked authorities to withhold his name from publication
until all relatives could be notified. He was a driver for Giant Food Stores
and was from Carlisle, PA.
The 74-year-old woman who drove her 2004 Buick Century into
the side of the tractor-trailer was not injured, according to reports from The
Sentinel newspaper and the local ABC News affiliate in the area. Sgt.
Stephen Kiesfling told the newspaper that evidence from the scene would be
given to the district attorney who will then decide whether to file charges
against the four-wheeler.
Toward that end, State Police treated the crash scene like a
crime scene, reconstructing the events from the air and on the ground. They
told local media that the trucker had attempted to minimize the impact by
swerving, which caused the rig to sideswipe the car instead of hitting it
Eyewitnesses told police that the tractor then split from
the trailer, struck an overpass support and burst into flames. It took
firefighters 20 minutes to get the blaze under control and the trucker was
burned beyond recognition.
While such accidents involving trucks and passenger vehicles
continue to plague the industry, one state is doing something about it.
The Washington State Patrol – with a little help from a
$600,000 grant from the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration and administrative support from the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission
and the Washington Trucking Association – has officers riding along in the cabs
of trucks as part of a statewide pilot program known as “Step Up and Ride.”
The program – which
was started after a trooper noticed that a majority of fatal accidents
involving commercial vehicles were caused by four-wheelers – gives officers the
opportunity to catch dangerous drivers in the act as they cut off or drive
recklessly around big rigs.
“In our state in
2004, we had 48 fatalities involving commercial vehicles,” said Capt. Coral L.
Estes, commander of the commercial vehicle division of the Washington State
Patrol. “Out of those 48, 75 percent were caused by the passenger car, not the
The newly funded
ride-alongs, public opinion surveys and a media awareness campaign will take on
a new name – Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, or TACT. The program began
in Washington June 30 and continues through Oct. 3, at which point it will be
re-evaluated. If it’s a success, Estes said, officers could soon be doing
ride-alongs in trucks across the country.
drivers can be slapped with a ticket – which in Washington ranges from $101 to
$525 for negligent driving, following too close, unsafe lane changes or failure
to yield – Estes said another key component of the program is education. Every
person stopped also receives information about the importance of safe driving
near large trucks.
“People are totally
unaware of the situations they’re putting themselves in,” Estes said. “Why
would you put yourself in these horrendous positions where you’ve got 80,000
pounds coming down on you at 60 miles an hour?”