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Catastrophic collisions and fatalities involving transport trucks on Ontario highways

Motor vehicle collisions involving cars, trucks, pedestrians and/or cyclists are a leading cause of accident fatalities in Ontario.  Some of the worst accidents in terms of the magnitude of multiple injuries and fatalities for vehicle occupants are multiple vehicle collisions involving heavy trucks such as tractor trailer trucks.  In accidents involving large trucks, the occupants of the other smaller vehicles are far more vulnerable and more likely to be seriously injured or killed than the transport truck drivers.  Specifically, a Transport Canada report found that only 15 percent of the individuals injured in accidents involving large trucks were occupants of these heavy trucks.

Tractor trailer trucks transport a large proportion of freight in Ontario, and this is apparent in the huge number of trucks on Ontario highways, particularly Highway 401.  In many parts of the world, such as Europe, freight is carried longer distances largely by train, so highways are relatively free of tractor trailer trucks.  The opposite is true in Ontario and many citizens are concerned that the increasingly large number of trucks puts other drivers at greater risk of injury and death in the event of a collision.

In February 2014, a major multiple vehicle accident involving approximately 25 tractor trailer trucks occurred on Highway 401 near Trenton, sending a number of people to hospital with serious injuries.   In March 2015, there was another massive collision on Highway 401 just east of Trenton, involving 50 vehicles including an overturned tanker truck and dozens of tractor trailer trucks.  There were leakages from multiple trucks that required cleanup and Ministry of the Environment officials were called in to assess the potential health risks for the spills.   Although 5 people were taken to hospital for serious, non-life-threatening injuries, amazingly, no one was killed.

More recently, on October 2015, a deadly collision involving 20 vehicles occurred on Highway 401 near Whitby, when a fully loaded transport truck rear-ended a smaller car, causing a chain reaction.   The accident was attributed to the truck driver’s failure to slow down for construction.  Four people were killed in this catastrophic accident, including two children 10 and 12 years old.  Of the 15 more injured, 4 were in life-threatening condition.  An OPP officer at the scene commented that the damage is horrific when a vehicle of the mass and energy of a very heavy truck crashes into slowly moving or stopped vehicles.

According to Transport Canada, the majority (56 per cent) of tractor trailer collisions occur in rural areas.  Many of our major highways run through large parts of rural Ontario, so the risk to drivers from being killed in a collision with a tractor trailer truck on the 401 near Trenton is in fact greater than in an urban center such as Toronto or Montreal.

Drivers of large commercial vehicles such as tractor trailer trucks and busses are under more stringent standards, in terms of driver training and operation of vehicles, than those of us who drive vehicles for personal use.  There are federal regulations that govern safety issues for large commercial vehicles that operate across provincial and federal boundaries, specifically the Motor Vehicle Transport Act under Transport Canada.   A significant problem for commercial truck drivers is driver fatigue and correspondingly, there are regulations limiting hours of service to address this concern.  Transport Canada estimates that driver fatigue is a factor in 30 per cent of large vehicle collisions.  Commercial vehicle drivers are restricted to 13 hours of driving in a 24 hour period, plus an additional hour for duties such as unloading or loading.

Other factors and careless actions that sometimes result in collisions for commercial truck drivers are driver distraction and a lack of reaction to dangers or hazards on the road.  Also problematic are aggressive behaviours such as speeding, failing to yield and unsafe passing.  When individual drivers of large trucks fail to adhere to safe driving practices, the outcome of these negligent actions can lead to catastrophic injuries for other drivers and passengers. 

Despite the training and skill that goes into the driving of large commercial vehicles, if drivers are negligent or fail to take due care, the consequences can be tragic.  When someone is seriously injured or loses a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, their lives are irrevocably changed.  Certainly, the most important priority for accident victims is wellness, in pursuing medical assessment and treatment, and getting help in dealing with a terrible loss.  Accident victims also deserve to get answers with regards to what caused their loss and injuries, as well as compensation for the expenses and loss resulting from the accident.

In Trenton, the Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) law group specializes in accident claims arising from personal injury.  We are experts in expediting insurance disability claims and tort action suits against the person or party that was negligent in causing your injury.  Our expertise in and knowledge of personal injury and insurance legislation gives our clients a strong advantage when we act as their representative with the insurance company.  If you were seriously injured in an accident or have a dispute with your insurer, call ILO today for a no-obligation consultation.


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