On Monday, April 27, a semi truck crashed into cars in a Washington dust storm along State Route 26. Spokane news outlet KXLY reported that a section of the highway was closed “due to a semi truck crash from poor visibility and blowing dust.”

It is tempting to think of a crash like this as a mere “accident”, completely unavoidable and caused simply by bad weather conditions.

But my decades of experience in truck crash law have taught me that a semi collision in the midst of a Washington dust storm is not an accident. It could have – and should have – been prevented.

Dust storm crashes caused by trucker failures

Professional truck drivers are just that – professionals. They are (or should be) trained to check the weather forecast, and be prepared to adjust to conditions. They are supposed to be in communication with dispatchers and motor carriers.

If all of these systems fail, and a trucker comes upon a Washington dust storm, they should:

  • Slow down;
  • Put their truck’s hazard lights;
  • Pull off onto the shoulder of the road until the wind dies down.

 

Washington dust storm police photo - WSP

This photo, posted by a Washington State Patrol Trooper on Twitter, shows the terrible visibility during the dust storm on SR 26 in Washington.

Some might say the Washington dust crash outside of Dusty yesterday was “just an accident”.

I would caution that I have seen collisions like this before; they were caused by truckers who drove too fast, broke the rules, and completely disregarded safety.

A multiple-truck crash in a dust storm

Not long ago, I represented a woman who had a broken neck, a skull fracture, and spinal cord injury after a similar bad weather crash.

In that case, the dust storm blew up along I-84 in Oregon. Several truckers drove into what police said was an “intense dust storm” with “less than 10 feet of visibility.”

Some of them slowed down, and pulled off the road.

Others kept going.

My client slowed her car down, and pulled over. As she was safely stopped, trucker drove at a high rate of speed into the dust storm and crashed into her vehicle.

He hit her car so hard that his license plate number was imprinted in the bumper.

Then, yet another trucker drove into the dust storm. He crashed into the semi-truck that had hit my client’s car.

What initially looked like complicated 5-vehicle crash in bad weather turned out to have a very straightforward cause: several truckers who failed to do their jobs.

A final note …

We are all currently trying to survive through an unprecedented pandemic. In many places, hospital and health care workers are overloaded and under-resourced. There is never a good time to drive dangerously or endanger others, but this is a particularly bad time to cause injury and harm to anyone. 

All drivers – and especially professional drivers – owe an extra duty of care right now. Predictable, preventable crashes send people to hospitals where they will be isolated, in danger of infection – and possibly diverting critical resources.

Do your part by driving safely.