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John Lowery
John Lowery
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Winter Weather and Big Trucks: Ignoring Regulations Puts Motorist Safety on Thin Ice

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A sometimes guilty pleasure is the reality show Ice Road Truckers, which details some of the more treacherous highway adventures of truckers along a highway built atop frozen tundra in Canada’s extreme Northwest Territories. The show dramatically details the difficulty of controlling a big rig in slippery conditions. Unfortunately, the same drama happens every time winter weather strikes an interstate highway in our country as well. Federal trucking regulations require that, when a truck cannot be "safely operated", the truck should be parked until it can be operated without endangering the driving public. Truck drivers are commonly placed under extreme pressure by their employers to keep freight moving regardless of weather conditions or federal regulations, which puts the driver in a quandry regarding whether to keep moving or pull over when foul weather makes safe driving impossible. When the inevitable happens and a crash occurs, too often the police officers charged with making the report simply state the the wreck was caused by "icy conditions" and make no assessment of fault even though federal regulations clearly mandate that a driver "discontinue operation" of a commercial vehicle when conditions become too hazardous for safe operation. Sadly, many injured people never realize they are the victims of negligence and fail to make claims against the trucking companies responsible for operating in unsafe conditions.

There are many other rules of the road applicable to big rigs but not passenger vehicles, so don’t assume that a crash involving a tractor trailer is "just another wreck"; be sure and discuss any accident involving injuries with an experienced lawyer who knows the rules of the road.

49 CFR §392.14 Hazardous conditions; extreme caution.

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.

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  1. Kevin Duffan says:
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    I agree with you, sometimes reality television gives people unrealistic expectations that can lead to serious consequences. Car and truck drivers need to extremely vigilant if they’re on the road when a bad winter snow storm hits. Snow can lead to ice which lead to slippery roadways and potentially black ice.