Fatal Thanksgiving Pile-Up: Was High Speed Trucking To Blame?

Although Texas authorities have yet to complete an investigation into the tragic pile-up that claimed the lives of a Houston couple on Thanksgiving Day, inside perspective from truck drivers suggests that high speeds played a role. Despite the dense “pea soup” fog, eyewitnesses said that traffic was still moving around 70 mph.

High speeds are often a significant cause of 18-wheeler accidents. Christian Science Monitor reported this week that numerous professional truck drivers discussed the pileup on Internet message boards – many of them pointed to the habitual speeding among other truckers as a big source of danger.

Texas is currently tied with Utah for the highest truck speed limits in the nation. 18-wheelers and other large tractor trailers can legally drive as fast as 80 mph on Texas roads. This speed limit is significantly higher than the 65 mph limit that exists in most other states.

Driving a large, heavy truck at high speeds is dangerous enough under the best conditions. Semi trucks require significant amounts of space to brake to avoid obstacles in the road and sharp turns are often even more dangerous, sometimes resulting in jack-knife crashes or rollovers.

When high speeds combine with poor weather, however, trucks become even more dangerous. In this case, a truck apparently triggered the massive 140-car pile-up by failing to avoid an SUV. According to witness accounts, the truck may have been moving close to 70 mph in dense fog that limited visibility to around 10 feet.

Depending on the results of the ongoing investigation, this could mean that the driver’s recklessness caused the entire crash.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, “Texas highway pileup: time to slow the ‘super truckers’ down?” Patrik Jonsson, Nov. 24, 2012