Backing Tragedy Unfolds When Truck Driver Stops to Help

backing accident

Palm Coast, FL— A dump truck driver stopped to help free a man’s pickup stuck in the dirt off the side of the Forest Grove Drive and killed both the 29-year-old driver and a 22 year-old pregnant woman.

The double fatality happened late Thursday night (Feb. 11, 2016) at about 10:30 PM. When several tries to free the pickup failed, the dump truck backed up and may have unknowingly killed the two young people. The dump truck driver left the scene and was flagged down about a mile up the road. The dump driver was taken to a local hospital for chest pains. Charges against the dump truck driver are pending, according to WESH-NBC.

The Problem

Fatalities and injuries in backing crashes are tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).

“A backover occurs when a driver reverses into and injures or kills a nonoccupant such as a pedestrian or a bicyclist.” NHTSA

Backovers that occur on a public roadway are called traffic backovers. Backovers not on a public roadway, for example, in a driveway or in a parking lot are called nontraffic backovers and these type of backovers are 37 percent of all off-highway fatalities (or about one person every workday — about 250 per year).

The true number of people injured and killed in nontraffic backover events is most likely higher, as some public safety departments are not allowed to respond to incidents occurring on private property.

Fact: Backing collisions are 100 percent preventable.

Preventing Backing Collisions

Research in backing collisions tells us two things:

  1. The main cause of all backing accidents is human error. 
  2. Organizations with motor vehicles need to develop special programs to help prevent backing collisions

While we will never be able to prevent all human error, driver errors can be mitigated by safety training and indoctrination and a strong safety culture.

In talking with small fleet owners, I have never had the topic of backing training brought up by the fleet owner. I’ve seen good on-site backing practices, but it’s hard to attribute one or two observations to a good safety culture or to the safe practices of one or two drivers.

Whether one operates on-road or off-road, the procedures for backing are always the same: insure the path is clear, use a spotter, stop and re-check things if there is any doubt.

A Personal Tragedy

I take safe backing personally. A tragic backing accident happened many years ago (before I was born) at my father’s trucking company. I learned to spot semi-trucks before I knew my ABC’s. Safety is my primary concern in writing these blogs. I know I oft repeat myself, but the reason is so the next generation of drivers and fleet owners don’t have to repeat the same tragic mistakes, year, after year, after year.

Unfortunately, as the above backing double-fatality illustrates, not everyone is getting the message and there is room for improvement. Every year hundreds are killed and thousands injured in backing incidents and collisions. (Several news media outlets called it a “freak accident.” Really?)

Not enough attention is paid to backing safely. Part of the problem may be in training (endless repetition on the backing course where the driver may check his path once, if at all), and lack of refresher backing training. Watch drivers back at truck stops. It’s scary.

Proper and safe backing is something that needs to be talked about with drivers at least once a year, if not  more, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading this.

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