The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has responsibility in several important areas: investigating the causes of vehicle accidents involving trains, aircraft, and a variety of other vehicles and vessels; promoting transportation safety; and helping victims of transportation-related accidents as well as the families of fatal accident victims. One important aspect of this mission is the board’s oversight of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which directly regulates commercial trucks, buses and other vehicles to prevent fatal truck accidents and catastrophic injuries.
But a recent report by NEWS21, a journalism coalition, reveals an alarming trend: NTSB recommendations are taking longer to produce results in the Washington bureaucracy, and some important safety measures are simply being ignored. A disturbing recent example is the nonexistent response to the NTSB’s 2002 call for enhanced medical standards for truckers. Over the ensuing six years, over 800 fatal crashes were blamed, at least in part, on medically unqualified drivers.
A recent MS-NBC story revealed just how easy it is for a long-haul trucker to renew his or her required medical certification. In some states, truckers can visit a chiropractor or advance practice nurse at a truck stop medical clinic and have their certification renewed in 20 minutes. Worse yet, truck drivers who are denied certification for any reason can simply head down the road and try another “med stop” because data tracking of this issue is nonexistent. And even when a trucker is caught without proper medical certification, immediate license revocation may not result.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., head of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, expressed concern “that FMCSA has allowed this situation to continue despite the overwhelming evidence that drivers are finding ways to circumvent the medical requirements for a Commercial Driver’s License.” Oberstar has pledged congressional review of the issue next year.
Personal Injury Lawyers Assist Victims After the System Has Failed Them
Fortunately for serious injury victims and surviving family members, our legal system allows a private action for damages from negligent drivers, irresponsible trucking companies and manufacturers of defective vehicles. Truck accidents and bus crashes have one consistent feature: the massive impact involved frequently results in brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones and other serious harm to innocent victims.
Government regulation tends to move as slowly as rush-hour gridlock. But when a high-speed truck accident brings sudden tragedy because of a truck driver’s medical condition, swift action is crucial to fully protecting an injury victim’s rights. By immediately consulting with an attorney who understands how to prosecute truck accident injury claims, vital evidence can be identified and the long-term effect of all injuries can be fully assessed.