The Dallas Morning News has reported a shocking story about long-haul truckers who are legally disabled yet continuing to drive. These drivers have contributed to many fatal collisions. This story was especially timely to our law firm because two lawyers from our firm are in trial this week in a case in which a driver suffered a heart attack, passed out, and rearended our client. The defendant driver had a history of heart problems, but was endangering the public by continuing to drive. Here are excerpts:
Tractor-trailer and bus drivers in the United States have suffered seizures, heart attacks or unconscious spells behind the wheel that led to deadly crashes on highways. Hundreds of thousands of drivers carry commercial licenses even though they also qualify for full federal disability payments, according to a new U.S. safety study obtained by The Associated Press.
The problems threatening highway travelers persist despite years of government warnings and hundreds of deaths and injuries blamed on commercial truck and bus drivers who blacked out, collapsed or suffered major health problems behind the wheels of vehicles that can weigh 40 tons or more.
The U.S. agency responsible for cracking down on unfit truckers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, acknowledges it hasn’t completed any of eight recommendations that U.S. safety regulators have proposed since 2001. One would set minimum standards for officials who determine whether truckers are medically safe to drive. Another would prevent truckers from “doctor shopping” to find a physician who might overlook a risky health condition. It’s unclear whether any of the eight recommendations will be done before President Bush leaves office.
“We have a major public safety problem, and we haven’t corrected it,” said Gerald Donaldson, senior research director at the Washington-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, whose members include consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies. “You have an agency that is favorably disposed to maintaining the integrity of the industry’s economic situation.”