Speeding is not OK

Really, why do we all think that it is fine for cars to travel at 120 km or more and for truck drivers to have the hammer down at 105 kms consistently? This speeding mentality is all taking place on highways with posted speed limits of 100 km or 60 and 65 mph.

What word do you see on top of most speed limit signs? MAXIMUM! And yet most of us travel above the posted limit and if we get behind someone that is moving at or just below the speed limit, we get frustrated and perhaps angry. Please note that I said ‘we’. I’m no Saint either, I can’t say that I never speed. This speeding question is one that I have been asking myself and I thought perhaps some of you would have the answer or at least a comment.

Why am I so concerned with a little speed? It goes back to the days when I was working for a trucking insurance company and I had to deal with a specific claim – a loss of life incident. A minivan with only six seatbelts in the vehicle had ten occupants. The crash happened on a beautiful sunny day around eleven in the morning. The minivan was travelling on a side road in the country and failed to stop at an intersection with a stop sign.
The minivan entered the intersection and was T-boned by a tractor-trailer. Six lives were lost that day, four people injured, and one truck driver’s life was altered forever. The truck driver was not injured in the crash.

Not to forget the lives lost and injured, this article is about why the insurance company for the truck paid out five million dollars when everything I have said so far has the minivan at fault.

It was clear that the minivan ran or failed to stop at the stop sign as required by law and that the van’s driver put the vehicle directly into the path of the truck driver. It was also clear that the truck driver could not react in time and could not avoid the crash.

Then why did the insurance company pay out five million dollars in settlement? The reason is called ‘Joint and Several Legal Liability’. This means if you contribute 1% or more to the outcome and in this case, the result is a catastrophic crash with loss of life, then you might be held partially responsible.

So, six people lost their lives and four were injured and if the car has two million dollars insurance coverage, would that be enough to compensate the families of those that lost relatives and also pay for the bills of the injured? Two million dollars? No, this would not even come close to covering the claims and cost.

You have to consider that the passengers in the minivan didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t run the stop sign. They too were victims and deserve to be compensated. So what happens when there is not enough money to pay all of those involved? The law looks for other pockets that have money and try to dip into those pockets to satisfy the claims of the victims. In this case, the truck was travelling at ninety-two kilometres per hour in an eighty KM zone, so the tractor-trailer was travelling at a speed that was above the posted speed limit.

To better understand the ‘Joint and Several’ concept, imagine that this crash has to go to court and that the jury is instructed to assign fault by percentage. The jury might find that the driver of the minivan was ninety-five or even ninety-nine percent at fault. Thus, the jury makes the truck driver only one percent at fault but this leaves the truck driver’s insurance company who covers this driver, liable. Even though it is only a ‘fault’ of one percent, those injured and the families of the deceased would now have access to one hundred percent of the trucking company’s insurance policy. I can now hear some of you yelling that this is not fair. While it may or may not be fair or reasonable for the trucking company involved or its insurance company, we must consider and remember the families of the victims and the injured. If the pool of monies available to compensate is too small, then the victims would never receive compensation. To try to strike a balance, this is how the law has decided to handle this type of situation. The law does its best to try to help victims and this usually takes the form of money. By having access to the trucking company’s insurance policy, the victims will receive more compensation then if they only have access to the minivan’s insurance policy and money.

So what is the moral of the story? Speeding, even at a small amount, where we know you would be unlikely to be ticketed, can have catastrophic consequences for everyone involved in a crash.

I know that I have tried to change my driving habits. I now try to drive at the speed limit. I use my cruise control in my car (when safe) a lot more than ever before.

Drivers, please drive safe and
don’t speed.

Signed, a sometimes sinner
(but much less frequent sinner)

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.