Who wins and loses when a Ford Focus and a fully-loaded semi-truck crash?

Devon Glass from Church Wyble, P.C. and I from The Lombardi Law Firm are experimenting with a joint project about highway safety. Here in Iowa we have I-80, I-35, I-235, I-90, I-370, I-380 and I-5 as the bulk of our interstate highway system running throughout the state. For the better part of thirty-years I’ve watching and listening as each client described one accidental crash after another. As a trial lawyer you can’t help but learn, so long as you care about the issues and people involved. Without looking at a map I’m not sure what highway system the lawyers in Michigan have to content with, I’ll let the young Mr. Devon Glass describe those to you. Today’s subject for me is about semi-trucks and how they are dangerous or cause collisions. As Devon instructed yesterday read the posts at the InjuryBoard along with the law firm websites: Church Wyble, PC and The Verdict on the Lombardi Law Firm. We’ve not tried this before so like us you can tell us what works and what doesn’t work.

Before I get to today’s subject there is something bugging me that I’m going to have to post about later this week. A client came into the office describing how after her accident in Des Moines several lawyers (at least 6) telephoned her parent’s home attempting to solicit her case. Telephone solicitation in Iowa is unethical so this is burning a hole in my brain knowing the identity of one of the law firms. Big firm, with what I thought was a solid reputation. I’ll get back to this later. Let’s get back to double-bottomed trucks.

Like the research method used to collect the wrong-way collisions series I’ve been doing the same for highway truck accidents with semi-trucks. Some readers say we are chasing ambulances, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What the InjuryBoard is about is supposed to be safety from what we’ve learned in this business and for young lawyer like Devon Glass, what they are learning. The older more seasoned lawyers are passing on the touch of knowledge to the next generation. With mediations and settlements being in vogue, we don’t try a lot of cases anymore so this is one way to collectively amass and pass on what we’ve learned over the last 30 to 40 years of being a personal injury lawyer. Yes, I’m not ashamed of being a personal injury lawyer, so those who refer to us collectively in a negative way can forget embarrassing us. If we are embarrassed about anything it’s the ignorance of those who on the one hand criticize us and then run to use our services when they get a boo-boo. Of course the reason why they criticize the personal injury lawyers is because they were turned away by us and are angry about not being able to take advantage of the system to make thousands of dollars for a boo-boo; the very thing they criticize us for doing. There’s a lot of mis-information out there about what we do as personal injury lawyers and presently fear mongers are making a good living off of selling hate, so these bozo’s keep at it out of spite.

When driving on the interstate first use your head and apply common sense. Take a look at the semi-truck: In North America they will have three axles, 18 wheels, perhaps a double bottom, 102 inches wide, 13.5 feet high and can have a gross weight of 80,000 pounds. The double bottomed trailers are 2-axle tractors towing two 1-axle 28.5 feet semi-trailers. Certain states also allow longer combination vehicles known as LCV’s. LCV’s include the following:

LCV types include:

Triples: Three 28.5-foot (8.7 m) trailers; maximum weight up to 129,000 pounds (58.5 t).

Turnpike Doubles: Two 48-foot (14.6 m) trailers; maximum weight up to 147,000 pounds (66.7 t)

Rocky Mountain Doubles: One 40 (12.2 m) to 53 (16.2 m) foot trailer (though usually no more than 48 feet) and one 28.5-foot (8.7 m) trailer (known as a "pup"); maximum weight up to 129,000 pounds (58.5 t)

In Canada, a Turnpike Double is two 53-foot trailers and a Rocky Mountain Double is a 50-foot trailer with 24-foot "pup"

Some states go further allowing longer and heavier trucks that include “larger tandem trailer setups such as triple units, the "Turnpike Double" (twin 48-53 ft units) or the "Rocky Mountain Double." (A full 48-53 ft unit and a shorter 28 ft unit) In general, these types of setups are restricted to tolled turnpikes such as I-80 through Ohio and Indiana, and select Western states. Tandem setups are not restricted to certain roads any more than a single setup. The exception is the units listed above. They are also not restricted because of weather or "difficulty" of operation.”

As you can plainly see these trucks traveling at 60 to 70 miles per hour are going to pack a punch if you crash with one while driving a Volkswagen or small Ford. A small Fiesta by Ford is 140 inches long, 61.7 inches wide and stands all of 53.5 inches. A Ford Focus is just more of the same.

Who do you think will live if a 129,000 pound fully loaded semi-truck comes sliding sideways towards the five people crammed into a beat-up Ford Focus? My guess is the Ford product as good as it is won’t win this contest. The men and women of Detroit can build it like a tank and the truck is still going to win this contest. Even with heavy metal playing on its Sirius radio, the Ford Focus weighs in at only 2,588 pounds.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a section on their website for vehicle safety research. Follow the links to the section on defects analysis and crashworthiness division. And this section takes me full circle back to semi trucks where we break it down into parts. Trucks are tough to drive because they are long, tall and heavy. Add that there are several moving parts to the vehicle and it gets trickier.  One of those pieces is the driver, a man or woman who’s probably bored, been driving too long, isn’t getting enough exercise, has had too much coffee and isn’t being paid nearly enough for the hours they are working. Irritate? Probably they are irritated and can be aggressive with their driving habits. A fact so familiar to America that it’s probably why the NHTSA has under construction a section titled “Heavy Truck Aggressivity”.

So let’s take a step back and compare just weight of each. An F-350 that I drive weighs 12,600 lbs. weighs almost five times that of the Focus, The Ford Focus weighs 2,588 pounds and the semi-truck in excess of 80,000 pounds or almost 31 times heavier. Its simple logic that should tell you which vehicle will come out on top in a crash.

Today’s post is already too long so I’ll quit and take up more the day after tomorrow. But don’t forget to read Devon’s post from yesterday, This May Save Your Child's Life When Driving on the Interstate, and return tomorrow for his next post. Who knows I may even persuade Parson’s from Hawaii, Jon Lewis and Stu McAtee from Birmingham, Schuelke from Austin, Rick Shapiro from Virginia Beach, Fusner from Tennessee, the Egerton’s from North Carolina and Bryant from the Twin Cities to join us. Truckie D probably has something to add as well. It goes without saying if you’re not mentioned you’re still invited to join us for this series and to lend us advice from whatever interstate highways you have webbing across your state. Our goal at the InjuryBoard is sharing our broad base of knowledge from across the country by lawyers with day-to-day experience while trying to teach the working men and women of this country how to protect themselves and their rights.

You can check out any cars safety rating using the NHTSA site.

Check out Safercar.gov a web portal with vehicle safety information.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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