New Law Increases Penalty for Deaths Caused by Truck Driver Negligence
In 2014, a car accident near Aurora involving a semi-trailer truck led to the tragic death of a tollway maintenance worker. A state trooper at the scene was also severely injured. The driver of the truck was subsequently arrested and charged with operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, driving beyond the 14-hour rule, and keeping false records. Responding to the public outcry that followed the accident, State Representative John Cabello drafted and introduced a new law increasing the penalty for truck drivers who cause great bodily harm or death to emergency responders and pedestrians through negligent driving.
House Bill 1516
Under the new law, which went into effect on January 1 of this year, any driver of a commercial motor vehicle who willfully violates the Illinois Motor Carrier Safety Law and subsequently causes an accident that injures or causes the death of another person will be charged with either a Class 3 or Class 2 felony. Examples of behaviors that constitute violation of the Motor Carrier Safety Law include:
- Driving with a forged log book;
- Violating the maximum allowable driving hours;
- Violating medical qualifications;
- Driving under the influence;
- Improper truck loading; and
- Failing to properly maintain the vehicle.
While a number of factors can contribute to a truck driver being involved in an accident, the most common is lack of sleep. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration established a series of regulations concerning allowable driving hours. For instance, semi-trailer truck drivers who transport property may not drive:
- More than 14 consecutive hours, following an off-duty period of at least 10 hours;
- If over eight hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period, which must have been at least 30 minutes; or
- After 60/70 hours while on duty for 7/8 consecutive days.
If a semi-truck driver’s failure to adhere to federal regulations leads to an accident that causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement, he or she will be charged with a Class 3 felony. A Class 3 felony is punishable by a term of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
In the event that the accident resulted in a person’s death, the charge will be a Class 2 felony, which carries a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment.
Being charged with causing another person’s death can have serious consequences, including a lengthy prison sentence and the mandatory payment of a hefty fine. If you have been charged with negligently causing death or injury to another, an experienced defense attorney may be able to help get your charges reduced. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Donahue & Sowa for an initial consultation.