A recent Cook County trucking accident settlement raises some interesting question about driver responsibility. The Cook County wrongful death lawsuit was brought by the family of a 47 year-old Illinois auto worker who was killed in a collision with a truck.
The surviving truck driver was not fluent in English and admittedly could not read English. The truck driver therefore was unable to read highway signs warning drivers that an accident had occurred up ahead and advising them to slow down. The truck driver did not slow down and crashed into the rear end of the decedent’s pick-up truck, which was then propelled forwarded and pinned against the median wall. The decedent was trapped in the vehicle as it ignited in flames.
The decedent’s estate claimed that the truck driver was an employee of Ford Air, Inc. and that the company knew or should have know that the driver could not speak or read English. Federal law requires truck drivers to have enough knowledge of English to be able to converse with a police officer. The idea is that in the event of an accident those with commercial driving licenses should be able to provide details about the chain of events. The truck driver in this case clearly did not meet this federal standard, which the estate claimed contributed to the Cook County trucking accident.
This English language requirement obviously does not apply to non-commercial drivers. But if the federal requirement is more of a safety standard than a cultural standard, then why does it only apply to commercial truck drivers? Should commercial truck drivers be held to a higher level of safety than regular drivers? The weight and bulkiness of commercial vehicles make them more difficult to maneuver and limit the driver’s ability to react quickly to changing conditions, whereas smaller cars and trucks can stop quickly and have shorter reaction times than commercial vehicles. Therefore some of the safety precautions that make sense for commercial vehicles are not necessary for non-commercial vehicles.
However, regardless of how you look at the situation, all drivers, commercial and non-commercial alike, should be aware of their surroundings and make every effort to avoid injury to themselves and to others.
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