Semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention . . .

I-94_PawPaw 9-3-15

Date: 09/03/2015  Time: 14:15 hours ET.

Location: East bound I-94, near exit 60.

Vehicles Involved: Two tractor-trailers and five cars.

Sequence of events: Traffic was stopped or slowed for construction (crews were putting out a grass fire that may have been distracting), when a tractor-trailer fully loaded with apple pulp ran into the back of an SUV. That vehicle was pushed into a Pontiac car. The tractor-trailer ended up off of the road, on its side.


  • Four vehicle occupants were transported to area hospitals; two were critically hurt.
  • Seven people were treated at the scene
  • One fatality, male, age 72, from  Illinois man,  former Illinois state representative and college professor. The victim’s wife is hospitalized in serious condition.
  • Several vehicles were totaled.
  • Traffic was rerouted for at least three hours.

Probable cause of collision: ‘Inattentive’ semi-truck driver.

“Police said the semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t slow down for construction in the area.”

Michigan State Police, Lt. Dale Hinz of the Paw Paw Post said the tractor-trailer driver is considered “at-fault” The driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

“Hinz said police are investigating why the truck driver was not paying attention to the road at the time of the crash.”

What is Inattentive Driving?

Inattentive driving is the failure to pay proper attention to the road while driving.

“Operating a motor vehicle in a manner which shows a lack of that degree of attentiveness required to safely operate the vehicle under the prevailing conditions, including but not limited to: the nature and condition of the roadway, presence of other traffic, presence of pedestrians and weather conditions.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds that driver inattention is a major factor in most serious traffic crashes. In one study, NHTSA defined driver inattention as:

  1. Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
  2. Driver drowsiness
  3. Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  4. Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

dumptruck in wires

Inattention comes in many forms.

Studies Show . . .

According to attentional theory, our minds cannot simultaneously make sense of constant inputs from many sources. Intensely focusing on one particular thing can lead to a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness, leading researchers to conclude that “the most effective cloaking device is the human mind.”


Gorilla spotting

In a now famous experiment, half of viewers did not recall seeing the gorilla in the video when asked to count how many times white-shirted players passed the ball.

Said one researcher, “Most of us are unaware of the limits of our attention—and therein lies the real danger.”

In commercial vehicle driving, inattention can be sometimes caused by white-line fever or highway hypnosis, hypnotic state induced by the monotony of driving a motor vehicle, usually on long, straight roads.

Driver inattention may be due to distractions as personal problems, emotional trauma, and a number of other factors. There is on-going research to determine the causes of driver inattention and driver distractions leading to collisions and other safety incidents and events.

Fact: Driver inattention is a growing problem.

Countermeasures to Inattentive Driving

  • Encourage “mindful driving.”
  • Commercial drivers need to cultivate a proper attentive mindset.
  • Drivers should not take any phone calls when driving.
  • Train drivers in proper mapping and route planning techniques.
  • Drivers should know how to manage breaks and take them when needed.
  • Motors carriers need strict, enforced policies on driver use of new technologies while driving.
  • Motors carriers need to investigate and deploy new technologies where appropriate for their particular operational needs.
  • Motor carriers need Fatigue Management Programs, according to the NTSB.

Finally, there is a key upside: “Our ability to ignore distractions around us allows us to retain our focus.”

Safe driving is possible. Good safety and loss control practices and polices can turn your transportation operations into the profit center you intended it to be.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe weekend.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599