Tuesday, March 08, 2005

baby you can drive over my car

I'm starting to think that for the year I spent commuting on the Madison Beltline, I was really damn lucky. In the past 6 months, two separate semi accidents have involved the semi driving over the top of a passenger car. In both cases there have been fatalities. Not surprisingly, the truck driver has been the cause of the accident in both cases. From News 3 (Madison, WI):

The first accident (Sept. 2004):
An Illinois truck driver is facing two counts of homicide by negligent operation in connection with a similar fatal beltline accident.

Six months ago, James Sharp crashed his semi into the back of a car that was stopped for construction on the beltline, killing Peggy Hanson, 51, and her 4-year-old granddaughter, Lilyana Thomas, both of DeForest.

Sharp is slated to go to trial in July.

Sharp, 59, told investigators when he reached down for a pack of cigarettes, there were no cars in front of him for a quarter of a mile and no signs that traffic up ahead was slowing and stopping.

"Mr. Sharp told me that as he was bending over and his line of sight went below his dashboard," said Madison Det. Maya Krajcinovic, who interviewed Sharp after crash.

While Sharp told police he didn't see any brake lights ahead, witnesses said they saw the traffic jam near a construction zone and had plenty of time to stop.

An accident reconstruction shows Sharp reacted only three seconds before the crash, when he actually had at least 26 seconds to as much as 52 seconds to brake safely and avoid the crash, investigators said.

The second accident (March 3, 2005):
One person died in a seven-car crash on the westbound beltline Thursday night.

Debra Callies, 51, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash happened at about 5:15 p.m. near the South Towne exit. All three lanes of the westbound beltline were closed until about 10 p.m.

A semi truck drove over Callies' car, killing her.

The frightening part:
The driver of the semi involved in Thursday's deadly crash on the beltline has a history of moving violations, News 3 reported.
Dixon's driving record has 14 moving violations since 1996, including speeding and failure to obey signs while driving a commercial vehicle, News 3 reported.

Madison police told News 3 Dixon has been involved in four accidents in Madison since 1993.

While I understand the need for people to be able to drive for work (especially if its their job), in cases like this maybe this supposed "right to drive" should be permanently revoked. Drivers need to face real penalties for causing crashes, especially ones that involve fatalities. We, as a society, call these incidents "accidents" as if no one is responsible. There is always a cause, be it "an act of God" or "driver distraction/negligence".

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a campaign to remove the "accident" designation for traffic crashes.
"Changing the way we think about events, and the words we use to describe them, affects the way we behave. Motor vehicle crashes and injuries are predictable, preventable events. Continued use of the word 'accident' promotes the concept that these events are outside of human influence or control. In fact, they are predictable results of specific actions," says NHTSA. "Crash, collision, incident and injury are more appropriate terms, and should be encouraged as substitutes for accidents," NHTSA adds.