The widow of an Illinois State Trooper has sued the driver of a semi-truck that struck and killed her husband, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Included in the lawsuit are the myriad companies that employed the driver the day of the accident. Andrew Bokelman was traveling from Wisconsin to Illinois, under employment by United Van Lines, Unigroup, and Barrett Moving and Storage, on March 28th of last year. The complaint claims that Bokelman fell asleep at the wheel and struck the squad car of Illinois State Trooper James Sauter, which was parked on the side of I-294, at approximately 11 PM. The collision caused a fire that ultimately killed Sauter. His widow, Elizabeth, filed the suit in December. Bokelman has been charged in Cook County with violation of a federal statute limiting the amount of time an interstate truck driver can continuously work. The complaint alleges that Bokelman had been working since approximately 6 AM the day of the accident.
Truckers and Distracted Driving
Long-haul truck driving is a huge industry in the US. In 2012, trucks hauled 9.4 billion tons within the US. With big industry, however, comes big incentive to move product quickly. This sort of haste can result in truck drivers ignoring basic safety precautions and driving more dangerously.
Truckers often spend more time in the cabs of their trucks than they do anywhere else while hauling goods. In the case of interstate travel, they may literally live in their trucks, merely pulling into truck stops or simply to the side of the road and sleeping in their cabs. If much time is spent on the road, then entertainment becomes a premium. But groping for CDs or changing tracks on the radio or an MP3 player means less attention is paid to the road. This creates an opportunity for accidents to happen.
Sleep deprivation is also a common problem. Many truckers work under tight deadlines to get their shipment to the intended destination. Under pressure, some truckers forego sleep to a dangerous degree, as in the unfortunate case of State Trooper Sauter. Others turn to stimulants, both over the counter and illicit, to help combat sleep and in order to keep the truck on the road. This can result in erratic driving, or in the driver taking unreasonable risks with his 18-wheel truck.
The Often Devastating Result of Truck Accidents
Vehicles traveling at high speeds (70 mph in most of Illinois’ highways) will inevitably cause damage when collisions occur. However, in the case of semi-trucks, the damage is increased. Trucks are massive vehicles, often weighing up to 40 tons. Any car that is struck by a truck travelling at top speed is likely to be totaled.