Truck-Bus Crash Caused by Synthetic Marijuana Use

A 2014 crash that killed 4 people and seriously injured 5 others was caused by a commercial truck driver who was using synthetic cannabinoids (marijuana), according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which just finished its investigation.

The truck driver’s use of synthetic marijuana was identified as a safety issue based on the following:

  • his toxicology results;
  • his lack of corrective action as he departed the roadway; and
  • his history of drug use.
Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman
Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman help people from Minnesota with wrongful death and personal injury claims get answers, compensation and justice. If you are a Minnesota resident, you can contact Fred and Eric using our free consultation form to discuss a lawsuit against a truck driver and trucking company.

Research is needed on the extent of synthetic marijuana use among commercial truck drivers, and action needs to be taken to prevent another tragic crash.

“Four young women are dead because a driver chose to use a substance that affects judgement and reaction time,” said attorney Fred Pritzker. “Companies need to do more to keep these kinds of drivers from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle that can weigh 80,000 pounds.” Fred and attorney Eric Hageman recently won $6 million for a family in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The only justice for families and people injured in these cases is suing for compensation and winning enough to send a message that safety needs to be the top priority. Fred and Eric can be contacted using our online free consultation form.

The Truck-Bus Crash

On September 26, 2014, about 9:05 p.m., a 2013 Peterbilt truck-tractor in combination with a 2014 Great Dane semitrailer, operated by Quickway Transportation Inc., was traveling north in the left lane of Interstate 35 (I-35), near Davis, Oklahoma. About the same time, a 2008 Champion Defender 32-passenger medium-size bus transporting 15 members of the North Central Texas College (NCTC) softball team was traveling south in the right lane of I-35.

In the vicinity of milepost 47, after negotiating a slight rightward curve at a speed of about 72 mph, the truck-tractor departed the left lane and entered the 100-foot-wide depressed earthen median at an approximate 2 degree angle. The truck tractor continued through the median, traveling over 1,100 feet without evidence of braking or steering. The combination vehicle then entered the southbound lanes of I-35 at an approximate 9 degree angle and collided with the bus.

Following the impact, the bus rolled onto its right side, and the truck-tractor continued off the roadway into a wooded area. As a result of the crash, four passengers on the bus were fully or partially ejected and died, and both drivers and the remaining passengers were injured.

Accident Investigation

The truck driver claimed he was reaching for a soft drink at the time of the crash, but the NTSB determined that could not account for his lack of corrective action following the roadway departure. Even if the driver were telling the truth, putting people’s lives at risk for a drink of soda is negligent.

The truth, which appears to be that he was using synthetic marijuana, is criminal. NTSB determined the drugs were the cause of the truck-bus crash because the truck driver did not take any type of evasive steering or braking while traveling across the median for more than 10 seconds before the full-throttle impact with the bus, which is inconsistent with either reaching for something or fatigue. The conclusion based on these facts is that the truck driver’s lack of corrective actions following the roadway departure was due to incapacitation, likely from the use of synthetic cannabinoids.

Changes are Needed in the Federal Regulations

Federal regulations include prohibitions of drug use by commercial motor vehicle drivers (49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 392.4). However, synthetic marijuana is not on the list of substances for which drivers are screened under the law (40 CFR 40.85), even though it was first introduced in the market in the early 2000s.

NTSB is recommending that, in addition to the regulatory changes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administraion work with the motor carrier industry to develop a plan to expand impairment detection training and authority, and develop performance-based methods of evaluation.

Get a Free Consultation

If you are a Minnesota resident, you can submit a free consultation to find out if you can sue a driver, trucking company, bus company and others. Our bus accident lawyers have won millions for our clients.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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