Cars Blamed In W.Va. Truck Accidents

Cars Blamed In W.Va. Truck Accidents – according to analysis

In accidents involving coal trucks and cars or other vehicles, drivers of other vehicles are at fault nearly two-thirds of the time, according to an analysis of West Virginia Department of Transportation (DoT) crash reports for the year 2001.

DoT statistics were cited at a news conference at the Capitol in Charleston by Beth Dingess, a registered nurse and wife of a coal hauler. Preparation of the analysis was done with the help of the West Virginia Natural Resources Transporters Association, an advocacy group for coal truckers.

Dingess said the analysis shows that “very few accidents involve coal trucks,” contrary to popular belief arising from the issue over weight limits for trucks and law enforcement.

In 2001, the state had 50,890 vehicle crashes, of which 2,518 involved vehicles with trailers weighing more than 8,000 pounds, Dingess pointed out. Only 91 of these crashes involved a coal truck. And of the 91 crashes, 16 were single-vehicle accidents involving only a coal truck, while the remaining 75 involved other vehicles.

Data further showed that in 48 of those 75 accidents, or 64%, police officers cited the passenger vehicle for being at fault. There were two accidents and three fatalities involving coal trucks in 2001, Dingess said. “In one of these, the truck was cited for overweight and failure to maintain control,” she said. “The other crash cited the car for not having the right of way.”

Beverly Gilman, a former school bus driver and now a truck driver, said at the news conference, “I feel safer driving a coal truck than the school bus. Our trucks are updated for safety every year,” said the driver for O’Dell’s Trucking in Kermit, in Mingo County. “And today, so many other businesses depend on the coal industry.”

But Gilman said some coal companies often make it hard on drivers and trucking companies by lowering payments for each ton of coal and making it necessary for drivers to haul more to stay in business.

Sonya Cooper, a former truck owner, criticized United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at the news conference for opposing an increase of the legal truck weight limit to 120,000 pounds from 80,000 pounds. The UMWA supported a bill in the past session of the Legislature to maintain the current limit.

“Instituting a 120,000-pound weight limit, with increased fines for violations, will promote safer highways for everyone, yet allow the coal industry to survive,” Dingess said.

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