Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder discussed the truck accident that injured him and killed a tollway worker on the one-year anniversary of the incident. When asked about the crash, he said, “I view it as a failure of the system to take care of us.” Officer Balder was not the only Illinois policeman involved in a truck crash recently. State Trooper James Sauter was struck and killed in 2013 when his cruiser was rear-ended by semi. Officer Balder and the widow of Officer Sauter are advocating for the use of reckless homicide charges in cases like theirs.
Criminal charges are one method of attempting to improve commercial trucking safety. Commercial truck accidents occur for a variety of reasons and it will take more than increased penalties to address them. The National Transportation Safety Board listed several potential methods of improvement when it placed commercial trucking safety on its 2015 Most Wanted List.
The NTSB has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to improve their oversight of the industry, including a more careful review of trucking companies, truck drivers and the semi-trucks, themselves. Many accidents reveal a pattern of safety violations that finally culminate in a fatal accident. The NTSB wants more oversight to identify when an operator, driver or vehicle is unsafe and to resolve the situation before a deadly truck accident occurs.
The truck drivers in both crashes involving Illinois State Troopers are charged with traffic felonies. There is evidence that both drivers had exceeded driving hour restrictions and were suffering from fatigue at the time of the collisions. Both cases are ongoing and no final determination has been made.
Source: Oswego Patch, “A Year After Horrific Crash, State Trooper Seeks Homicide Charges Against Trucker,” by Shannon Antinori, 27 January 2015