Trucker Falls Asleep at Wheel, Kills State Trooper

Trucking accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on the most recent development from a recent fiery crash on the Tri-State Tollway which killed an Illinois State Trooper – the crash was caused by a semi-truck driver who had been working for more than 14 hours before falling asleep at the wheel.

The truck driver, a 26-year-old man from Wisconsin has not yet been charged criminally from the crash, which occurred on March 28, 2013 in Illinois, as the investigation is still ongoing. Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, show that the truck driver was working for United Van Lines, both of which have been fined for breaking federal sleep schedule regulations.

According to the agency’s website, drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles may drive a maximum of 11 hours, only after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. As stated, the Wisconsin driver who caused the fatal crash had been illegally driving for more than 14 hours.

As a result of the federal noncompliance, the driver was fined $2,500, and United Van Lines was ordered to pay $5.500. The recommended fine for United Van was actually set at $11,000, records show, and was reduced because the driver broke the rule only once within seven days.

The driver was hired in December 2012, and had no previous trucking experience beyond a Class A Commercial Truck Driving course he completed in the fall of 2012. United Van gave him entry-level training and a road test after he was hired.

Federal investigators stated that the driver had been working within Waukesha, Wisconsin from about 6:30 a.m. until a little after 6:30 p.m. on the day of the crash. During those 12 hours the driver was constantly loading and unloading trucks, beginning to travel again around 8:45 p.m., not stopping until just after 11:00 p.m., when it crashed in Cook County, Illinois.

The Illinois State Trooper, James Sauter, was sitting in his parked car on the shoulder of I-294 near Willow Road when the semi approached. The Illinois State Police crash report affirms that the driver was asleep behind the wheel, causing the truck to veer left onto the interstate shoulder, hitting Sauter’s cruiser from behind and killing him.

A witness at the scene stated that the truck was indeed in the left lane, although semitrailers are supposed to stay in the two right-side lanes. The driver was charged with improper lane usage on the night of the crash, although records show that charge was dismissed on April 15, 2013. Trooper Sauter worked for Illinois since 2008, earning a lifesaving medal as a cadet for coming to the aid of a motorcycle crash victim early in his career.

The CDC recently affirmed that sleep deprivation is a major public health epidemic, and that continued public health surveillance of sleep quality, duration, behavior, and disorders is needed. Sleep insufficiency is often related to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving contributes to thousands of automobile crashes every year. The agency recently launched an educational campaign to reduce this number, aimed at improving critical aspects of driving impairment, such as reaction time, attention, information processing, and vigilance.

In related news, a pedestrian was recently hit by a Metra train in the northwest Chicago suburb of Round Lake. The accident occurred on the Milwaukee District North line train just before noon on a Saturday, at the intersection of Fairfield Road. The Number 2610 train was carrying 15 people at the time, and was delayed about 90 minutes due to the crash.

Truck accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of victims of negligent driving and train operation. If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in an automobile, train, or plane crash caused by the negligence of another, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your suffering.


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