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Dangers of Semi Trucks

Dec. 23, 2021

We've discussed the numerous dangers posed by large commercial vehicles on the roadways in several previous blogs. This month a semi-truck driver convicted on multiple charges in connection with a fatal April 2019 crash on Interstate 70 near Denver, Colorado, was sentenced to 110 years in prison. On October 15, 2021, Aguilera-Mederos, 26, was convicted of 42 charges, including vehicular homicide, first-degree assault, attempted assault, reckless driving, and careless driving.

Aguilera-Mederos, unable to stop due to a brake system failure, ignored safety ramps and plowed into stopped traffic. This severe, fiery crash killed four individuals and badly injured at least six others, closing the eastbound lanes of I-70 for more than a day. Prosecutors argued during the trial that Aguilera-Mederos could have avoided the crash by taking preventative measures, including using a runaway truck ramp miles before the crash, but instead "made a bunch of bad decisions." James Colgan, the driver's defense attorney, argued that Aguilera-Mederos was unaware his truck's brakes were smoking or that he would be unable to stop, despite numerous witnesses testifying that Aguilera-Mederos should have taken the runaway truck ramp or veered away to avoid colliding with the line of cars.

Aguilera-Mederos, the Colorado District Court Judge stated, was bound by the state's mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The defense attorney intends to appeal and believes that his client does not deserve to die in prison, stating that "there will be an appeal as to the facts and errors made during the trial" and that the mandatory minimum sentencing law is "barbaric and Draconian" and that "a change in the law is necessary."

Colorado's mandatory minimum sentencing law requires convicted defendants of certain high-level crimes to serve at least the maximum allowable prison sentence and prohibits sentencing court judges from imposing lesser sentences at their discretion. According to 19-3-16 CSR, vehicular homicide is defined as driving a motor vehicle recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing an accident that results in the death of another person.

The Colorado General Assembly has set the speed limit on I-70 in Denver at 55 miles per hour. The primary reason Aguilera-Mederos was unable to brake and thus made the crash so dangerous was the high speed at which she drove, close to 85 mph. In Colorado, vehicular homicide is a class 4 felony, which can lead to 2-6 years in prison and fines from $2,000 to $500,000. Drivers who are arrested while under the influence of alcohol face increased penalties and fines.

It is estimated that by the year 2030, accidents involving commercial vehicles will become the fifth largest cause of death in the US. On average there are approximately 500,000 trucking accidents annually. Truck transport is one of the best ways to move goods across the country, and approximately 70% of all goods in the US involve transport by a commercial vehicle. Many Americans make a lucrative living as drivers and operators. Incidentally, there has been a 52% increase in commercial vehicle accidents since 2009 and 74% of all fatal passenger vehicle crashes involve large trucks, with 68% of these fatalities comprised of passenger vehicle occupants.

According to the research in the Large Truck Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the most common causes of these accidents are mechanical defects, such as in Aguilera-Mederos’s case, new tour routes and driver fatigue.

There are several ways to protect yourself and your family from a collision involving a big truck. You should always drive in a defensive manner, or in a manner that utilizes safe driving strategies enabling you to address identified hazards predictably. Here are additional tips to prevent a truck accident:

  • Allow more space when following a truck than you would with other passenger vehicles, allowing yourself plenty of room to make adjustments for unseen hazards, such as stopped traffic;

  • Leave space when passing in front of a truck, larger vehicles require longer distances to stop;

  • Stay out of truck blind spots – if you cannot see the truck driver’s face in their side mirror, you are in a blind spot. It is always safer to pass a truck on the driver’s side, as trucks have a larger blind spot on the passenger side;

  • Use caution when pulling over on the highway. Look for a large shoulder or designated pull-off spot;

  • Use caution if a commercial vehicle is making a turn. Large vehicles make wide turns;

  • Never play “chicken” with a commercial vehicle. If a truck attempts to pass you, let it;

  • Pass quickly and only when there is sufficient space to do so;

  • Be predictable, always use signals when making lane changes;

  • Avoid distracted driving;

  • Anticipate weather conditions.

Even when we put our best efforts forward, these collisions still occur. If you or your loved one has died or been seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision involving a semi truck or commercial vehicle, we are here to help.

Kendall Law Group has over 30 years of experience in representing individuals and families with personal injuries, including many cases involving large commercial vehicles. We truly care about the outcome of your case and providing you with the tools necessary to put your life back on track after a traumatic personal injury.

If you would like a consultation with an experienced attorney who cares, contact us today at (816) 531-3100 or sign up here.