Just more than a year ago, 10 people were killed in a horrific traffic accident on Oklahoma’s Will Rogers Turnpike. Seventy-six-year-old Donald Creed was in his tenth hour of driving his 18 wheeler when he apparently failed to brake and ran into a line of cars which had stopped on the freeway, running completely over five of them. His mistake caused the ten deaths and a freeway pileup that stopped traffic for hours. He was charged with 10 counts of negligent homicide. It was recently reported that he is now close to reaching a plea agreement in the case.
The severity of this accident has caused people to question the reasons behind it, and to see if anything can be done to prevent accidents like it in the future. There currently is a bill in the Oklahoma state senate proposing to reduce the legal speed limit for commercial trucks from 75 mph to 65 mph. Many question whether that will have any effect. Creed was reportedly traveling at 70 mph, and 5 mph less would not have reduced the severity of the accident. Additionally, there are concerns about having traffic traveling at different speeds on the same highway, and the fact that truckers are paid to travel a certain distance in a certain amount of time. Slowing them down would be a financial loss for the drivers and their employers.
However, it was not the truck’s speed that killed the victims, but rather the driver’s inattentive driving. And this is where it gets tricky. There are already laws on the books regulating how long a driver can operate his truck without a break. Assuming these laws are followed and enforced — a BIG assumption — then another factor that can’t be ignored is the driver’s age.
Statistically, older drivers are responsible for more traffic fatalities as a percentage of the population. Some have said that age 65 is the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots (it was 60 prior to 2007), and maybe there should be a similar mandatory retirement age for truck drivers. They wonder why we allow truckers to continue driving at age 70, 75 even 80. Truck drivers must make split-second decisions every day at high speeds that require quick reaction times. Studies show that a driver over the age of 65 may not be physically and/or mentally equipped for the challenge. So should they be taken off the roads? It’s a question that needs to be asked.