Investigators Need to Find Out if 72-Car Pileup in Downstate Illinois Could Have Been Avoided if Motor Vehicle Laws Were Followed
As the investigation continues on a two-mile stretch of highway in downstate Illinois, it makes one pause to think if the 72-car pileup should have even happened at all. The Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Administration and the Department of Transportation expect trucking companies and motor carriers to practice defensive driving – an industry term to mean exercising caution in emergency situations and refraining from operating 80,000-pound tractor-trailers when visibility conditions dictate otherwise.
“Driving a tractor-trailer with little to no visibility is reckless and wanton conduct that can place other motorists in the worst possible scenario – the death and injuries of innocent people,” said Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago. “This terrible tragedy needs to be thoroughly examined so those whose lives have been forever changed have answers.”
Six people have been reported dead and at least 30 more were injured when Interstate 55, outside of Springfield, Illinois, experienced what state police described as zero-visibility on the road for about a two-mile stretch around 11 a.m. Monday, May 1, 2023, when a “dust-out” storm occurred.
Federal motor vehicle laws governing truck drivers require that truck drivers pull over in such conditions. The FMVCA rules state, “If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, operations must immediately be discontinued until the vehicle can again be safely operated.”
Instead, it was reported that semi-trucks carrying heavy loads, and perhaps hazardous materials, crashed into helpless others. “It was very dangerous – the drivers couldn’t see. Truck drivers know that it takes a long time to stop their heavy vehicles when traveling on highways at higher speeds, and if they strike something, the other person doesn’t have a chance,” Clifford said. “Drivers, particularly truck drivers, cannot be in a hurry. In situations like this, safety must take precedence over everything else.”
In the pile-up on I-55 near the state’s capital of Springfield, six people are now dead. Dozens of others are critically injured ranging in age from 2 to 80 years old, including some who had to be airlifted to hospitals. Several tractor-trailers turned over and others burned out on the highway. I-55 reopened Tuesday morning as police continue to examine what happened in this horrible wreckage.
This “dust-out” is very similar to a winter “white-out” when responsible drivers pull off the road and seek shelter to avoid tragedies like this that can be caused by zero-visibility conditions. The incident brings back horrible memories of a family whose car was crushed in a pile-up on I-90 near Rockford, Illinois, during a white-out snowstorm. The Yoder’s car was crushed. Their four-year-old daughter in the back seat was killed and their little two-year-old boy suffered permanent brain damage that required round-the-clock care for the rest of his life. The mom suffered severe skull and facial injuries requiring 31 surgeries. Of course, that family was devastated. Kevin Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices, obtained a record $38.3 million verdict in 2004 on their behalf.
For further information, contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner, Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).