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On February 2, 2009, a tractor trailer truck loaded with 83,000 pounds of sand ran a red light on U.S. 17 and killed a Stafford, Va. woman. The truck driver told police he thought the light was green and that he never saw the victim’s vehicle. However, police tested the truck and determined that it had no front left brakes and the right front brakes were not working.

The truck driver was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the tractor trailer truck crash. He was recently sentenced to five years in prison with all but three months suspended. During sentencing, the trucker’s attorney admitted that he was driving with faulty brakes-the truck allegedly had 80% of its braking capacity-but argued that the faulty brakes had nothing to do with the crash.

The thought of an 18-wheeler loaded with 83,000 pounds and not having working front brakes is alarming, but not unusual. This is why in civil cases arising from such crashes it is crucial to get to work asap and preserve the evidence. The truck must be inspected before it is repaired. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) makes public various safety information about trucking companies. It would be interesting to know the identity of the trucking company that owned the truck involved in this Fredericksburg crash and check its safety record on the FMCSA Safety and Electronic Records database (SAFER). I doubt the lack of front brakes is the only safety violation one would discovery in SAFER.

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