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Truck Accident: Tragic Tangle with a Tractor-Trailer

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Charlottesville, VAShe was a soccer player—caring, and fun-loving. When a classmate's dog died, she baked the grieving owner cookies. That's the type of person Sydney Aichs was. And that's why so many friends and loved ones are mourning her death to a truck accident after her small car was rammed by a tractor-trailer running a red light. The 16-year-old Virginian was pronounced dead at the scene while the truck driver, Kenneth Barbour, 54, escaped unharmed.

AccidentThe Waynesboro man would be later charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving. If convicted of the first charge, he faces up to 10 years in prison, together with an additional year in jail and a $2,500 fine if also convicted of the lesser charge.

Sydney Aichs' family, meanwhile, faces life without their daughter, killed in the act of making a proper turn on her way to school.

The specific cause of the crash has yet to be determined, or released. However, police had initially reported that a tractor-trailer driven by Barbour was traveling north along US 29 when it failed to stop at a traffic signal, striking Aichs' 1999 Chevy Cavelier as the car entered the intersection on a green and turned south onto the highway. The likeable, young student with so much promise didn't stand a chance.

A marked rise in truck traffic in North America is giving communities on both sides of the border pause to take stock of just how safe those trucks are, not to mention the condition and suitability of the drivers to pilot those big rigs. The first week of June is Roadcheck week in the State of Texas, a program that sees State troopers conducting spot safety checks. Of the 6,051 trucks flagged down for inspection during three days last year 1,659 were taken off the road and 259 drivers were removed from service. Violations included worn tires and brakes, errors committed with regard to filling out driver logbooks, and drug abuse.

North of the border, in Alberta Canada, police officers are not only stopping trucks, but also attempting to educate drivers on the art of sharing the road safely with such big rigs. It's a known fact that large semis require far greater stopping distances than cars, and too many car drivers are ignorant to that fact. But so too, it seems, are some truck drivers themselves who refuse to slow down, or drive fatigued. The latter is a huge problem. According to police, drivers of big trucks are some of the most likely operators to fall asleep at the wheel and become involved in a crash resulting in death.

During a recent blitz on Alberta roads, one truck driver was found to have falsified his logbook to show that he had been sleeping, when in fact he was driving. He was charged, and ordered to pull over and rest. Other tractor-trailer and big rig drivers have been arrested for impaired driving, and 19 were charged with drug-related offences.

When it comes to a tangle between a semi and a car, the car almost always loses, dooming the car driver and occupants to serious injury and often, a horrific death. In contrast, large trucks are like tanks and most drivers walk away from truck accidents unscathed. Perhaps it is why some of them take so many chances. Perhaps they feel invincible.

Regardless, truck accidents are bound to keep happening so long as unsafe vehicles remain on the road and impaired, reckless or fatigued drivers remain behind the wheel.

We may never know what caused a tractor trailer to veer from its trajectory near a construction zone on Illinois State15, striking several orange barrels used to direct traffic before plowing into a pickup truck containing two construction workers on their break. The man sitting in the cab saw the collision coming and jumped to safety, injuring his hand in the process. However his colleague sitting on the rear bumper of the pickup truck was 'catapulted' from the impact and died in hospital.

The solution may be fleeting, but increasingly necessary to prevent more of the kinds of accidents that claimed the lives of construction worker Cedric L.B. Gasper, 39, of Illinois—and Sydney Aichs, 16, of Albemarle County, Virginia. Trucks that are sometimes overwhelmed with load but light on safety, spell almost certain death for those hapless souls coming into contact with them. Thanks to the current fuel crisis, which hints that high prices could be permanent, cars are shrinking in size at an unprecedented rate.

It should only serve to exacerbate the carnage on our roads, and further clog the courts as families fight for the rights of loved ones lost to a big rig.



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