Preventable or not

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Final figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that truck-related fatalities rose slightly to 4,986 in 2003 from 4,939 in 2002, the first increase since 1997.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should consider privacy issues in any rule it issues related to event data recorders (EDRs) on commercial vehicles, the American Trucking Associations said last month. In response to a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding cars, trucks and buses with GVWRs of 8,500 pounds or less, ATA is concerned with how data will be analyzed and managed. If NHTSA isn’t going to address privacy, it should suspend further action on the rulemaking, the association said.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation (SB 2167) that makes it a felony to bribe driving school instructors and trucking company employees who administer third-party testing in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Bribery to obtain a license will become a Class 2 felony, punishable by up to three to seven years in prison and fines up to $25,000. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2005.

A federal judge in Georgia sentenced Terrance Haley, a former third-party commercial driver’s license examiner for the state of Georgia, to five years’ probation. Haley had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements in connection with providing certifications on CDL examinations of more than 600 student drivers while he was employed by TTT Truck Driver’s Training School.

John Doe scanned the stations on his rig’s new satellite radio as he cruised down Highway 61 to his next delivery at a new organic-food restaurant called Maggie’s Farm. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon as Doe hummed along to “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The road was deserted.

Just as the line “I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to” played for the last time, Doe saw Maggie’s Farm just ahead on the left. The restaurant wouldn’t open for about an hour, and the parking lot was totally empty except for a Honda Civic parked in front.

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Doe spotted a lanky young man wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt peering into the front window. “Probably bummed that he can’t get a cup of free range coffee and a stack of alfalfa sprout pancakes,” Doe said to himself with a chuckle.

Getting serious, Doe checked quickly to see that there was no traffic behind him or coming toward him on the two-lane road. He then pulled slightly past the restaurant, stopped and began backing blindly to the left into the Maggie’s Farm parking lot. At the same time, the disappointed would-be diner backed out of his parking space and into Doe’s path. Crunch! The Civic’s trunk was heavily damaged. Fortunately, the driver wasn’t hurt. Nor did he seem particularly concerned about the damage – or anything else for that matter.

Doe was surprised when the safety director slapped him with a preventable-accident warning letter. The Civic had backed into him, Doe argued, asking that the National Safety Council settle the dispute.

After reviewing the record, NSC’s Accident Review Committee upheld the ruling of the accident as preventable. Knowing that the restaurant was closed, Doe should have anticipated that the Civic could be departing at any moment. He should have sounded his horn or climbed down from his cab to re-check clearances before backing into the parking lot.