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Cutting corners: Ill advised right turn accident costs man his life and lands trucker criminal charges

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 8th, 2013

Instead of waiting until it was safe to turn, truck driver makes a dangerous “jughead turn,” killing a motorcyclist

right turn truck accidentThis is a sad but familiar story.  A truck driver in Minnesota accidentally killed a motorcyclist and injured a 10-year-old boy because he chose to ignore safety protocols.

Here’s how the right turn accident occurred: The truck driver was traveling southbound in the right curb lane. A motorcyclist was traveling in the same lane behind him. The motorcyclist’s 10-year-old son was also on the motorcycle seated behind his father. As the truck driver approached an intersection, he prepared to make a right turn into the westbound traffic lane of the cross street. However, there was a stationary car in the eastbound lane of the cross street waiting to turn left.  Because of the wide turns of the truck, the driver would not be able to make the turn until that stationary car moved.

Rather than wait, the truck driver merged from the right curb lane into the left traffic lane.  He then attempted the right hand turn from the left hand traffic lane.  As he cut back across the right hand lane, the unsuspecting motorcyclist collided with the truck and was killed. His young son was also injured; but thankfully, his injuries were not serious and he is okay.

The motorcyclist committed no violations.

How the right turn truck accident was preventable

This kind of right turn by truck drivers is unsafe. For his actions, the truck driver was charged with manslaughter. A commercial trucking instructor who testified in the matter said that this maneuver – merging into the left lane then attempting a right hand turn (called a “jughead turn” in the trucking industry) – is not taught in trucking school because it is unsafe.

A second instructor referenced a commercial driver’s license manual, which demonstrated the proper way to execute a right hand turn in that scenario. The proper protocol required the truck driver to wait for the third party car to clear the intersection then complete the turn.  The instructor admitted his surprise that a truck driver would attempt this turn, and said this crash was “very preventable.”

The scariest part about this story is that upon his cross-examination, the expert driving instructor acknowledged that this kind of maneuver, though not taught because it is too dangerous, is done by truck drivers in practice.

Sometimes trucking companies cut corners for profit, but other times truck drivers just cut corners.  This is a classic example of truckers cutting corners —  literally.  Companies put a lot of pressure on drivers to make good time, and drivers put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform well on the job.  The temptation to cut corners on safety is great.

The sad thing is, this is a scenario where safeguards were in place; failure of the truck driver to choose safety was the culprit. This kind of turn is not taught in trucking school for a reason.  In fact, in commercial driving license manuals this maneuver is expressly mentioned as how not to make a turn.

If convicted, the truck driver faces up to 10 years in prison.

This preventable crash cost a man his life, a boy his father, and a truck driver, if convicted, his freedom.  This cost is far too high.  Please do not cut corners on safety.

Here’s more on this story.

Related information:

How driving a truck is more complicated than driving a car

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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