NAPLES, Florida – An Interstate 75 toll worker was flown to a local hospital Monday afternoon after they were gravely injured when a semi-truck crashed into an eastbound toll plaza on I-75 in Collier County.
According to investigators, the 35-year-old Miami man who was driving the tractor-trailer fell asleep at the wheel near the interstate's 100-mile marker. He reportedly woke up just before he entered a toll lane and slammed on his brakes, which caused the 18-wheeler to jackknife and slam into a lane barrier. The trailer detached from its wheel assembly, then spun into another lane, crashing into a stationary SUV, causing minor injuries to two occupants of the SUV, according to the report. The 18-wheeler finally came to rest but not before it smashed into a toll booth, seriously injuring the worker.
The weight of an 18-wheeler is about 35,000 pounds empty (it can be as much as 80,000 pounds loaded). This truck was hauling an empty cement tanker, the report said, making it somewhat heavier than an empty truck but not as heavy as a fully loaded one. Even empty, the damage these massive vehicles can cause is extensive. In this case, three toll lanes remained closed for repairs following the accident, according to the press release. The crash is still under investigation.
The actions of the truck driver must be investigated to prevent accidents like this from happening
Even with the limited information currently available, it is clear that the truck driver was negligent in this instance. It is extremely dangerous to operate such a large vehicle on the public highway without proper rest, which is why there are laws regulating the number of hours a trucker may drive without sleep. Approximately 100,000 car crashes annually are caused by drowsy driving or sleeping at the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These fatigued driving accidents result in about 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries every year.
To determine the exact cause of this crash, the toll booth worker likely needs to have an attorney conduct an independent investigation of the truck driver’s actions as well as the safety culture of the commercial trucking company which employed him. If a trucking company fails to enforce the mandatory breaks and sleep requirements, perhaps in an effort to increase their profits, they may be held liable for their drivers’ actions also.
Preventable accidents such as this one cannot be ignored. It is very fortunate that no one was killed in this incident, and if the driver is able to walk away without penalty of some kind, what is there preventing the same scenario from playing out in the future? Those injured deserve answers and compensation for their harm, and the driver and company need to be held accountable for their actions.