In December 2015, a 35-year-old North Augusta woman died in a crash on Interstate 20 East. She was a passenger in her brother’s car when her brother struck a box truck parked on the shoulder of the road.
This tragic accident and others like it raise questions about the liability of truck drivers who park in emergency lanes. South Carolina law prohibits vehicles from parking on the shoulder of roads, yet it’s not uncommon to see large commercial vehicles alongside roadways or parked alongside freeway ramps.
Sometimes, truck drivers must pull onto the shoulder due to a mechanical emergency, but drivers have also been known to pull over to rest. In one fatal crash in Texas, a driver of a car was killed when she hit a semi that was parked on the shoulder of the highway. When the crash occurred, the truck’s driver was napping inside the sleeper berth. Witnesses told police the truck had been parked in that spot for two days.
The Louthian Law Firm has been representing personal injury victims in Columbia and throughout South Carolina since 1959, helping them pursue justice. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 803-454-1200.
A Shortage of Suitable Parking
In 2012, Congress passed a transportation act that included a section authorizing the use of public funds for truck parking facilities. That section, called Jason’s Law, was named after a trucker who was murdered in South Carolina in 2009.
Jason Rivenburg was resting in his truck at an abandoned gas station when a thief killed him and stole the $7 in his pocket. Rivenburg’s widow said that a lack of safe truck parking is what ultimately put her husband at risk, and as a result of her advocacy and testimony before Congress, Jason’s Law expanded funding options for truck parking. But four years later, police are still finding truckers parked alongside the road.
A recent federal truck parking survey found that 75 percent of truck drivers said they routinely had difficulty finding a safe resting place, and 99 percent said they had trouble finding safe overnight parking. Trucking companies say drivers sometimes have no other choice – if they reach their federally mandated maximum driving hours, they have to stop driving. But police say truckers need to plan ahead to avoid such situations.
In June 2015, highway patrol officers in North Carolina launched an enforcement effort, ticketing truckers parked on on-ramps to rest. One of the police officers involved in those efforts said troopers encountered a driver who had pulled over to rest, instead of driving two miles down the road to a truck stop.
Drivers may be pulling over to rest because they don’t want to violate laws that regulate driving time, and they may be unaware of the risk they’re creating for other motorists. At nighttime, trucks parked on the side of the road are an even greater safety risk. If a driver in the lane closest to the shoulder swerves to avoid an object or another car, that driver could easily run into a semi parked on the shoulder.
When the Unexpected Happens
In March 2016, a woman in Florida suffered a diabetic episode and lost control of her car, crashing into a dump truck parked legally on the shoulder. She was treated for her injuries, and the dump truck driver was unharmed, but the crash caused roughly $18,000 in damages. The dump truck was legally parked on the shoulder, which was in a clearly marked construction zone, yet this crash illustrates that even under the best of circumstances, trucks parked on the shoulder present a danger to motorists who veer off course.
Traffic accidents tend to occur with little warning, and motorists who have been through the experience often say they acted on instinct – there’s little time to weigh the pros and cons of a specific decision. When traveling on a highway, a driver’s first instinct to avoid another car will likely be to swerve. The driver making an evasive maneuver might not even notice a semi parked on the side of the road.
Help for Families
When a car hits a parked truck, serious and fatal injuries are often the result. Even if a truck driver had good intentions and parked on the shoulder to avoid driving while tired, that doesn’t change the fact that the victim, and the victim’s family, may be dealing with the aftermath of that crash for a lifetime.
If a crash with a parked truck injured you or an immediate family member, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Contact us today to request your free consultation, using our online form, or by calling (803) 454-1200.