Arizona semi truck accidents a serious threat to highway safety

Five people were hurt in an Arizona truck accident on Interstate 8 west of Gila Bend, AZ Family reported.

The accident reportedly involved at least two semis and closed eastbound I-8 between Citrus Valley and Route 85. The semis apparently collided and burst into flames — a passenger vehicle was also involved. Four people were airlifted to area hospitals while a fifth victim was taken by ambulance.

ABC 15 reported that the road was blocked for hours as crews worked to clear the wreckage. Cause of the trucking accident remains under investigation.

Arizona accidents involving semis and other large commercial trucks typically result in very serious or fatal injuries to motorists. In 2008, a total of 103 people were killed and 1,563 people were injured in accidents involving semis, tractor trailers or other large commercial trucks, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona Highway Patrol’s Department of Public Safety unit would no longer make “administrative stops” on large trucks.

The stops are aimed at ensuring the safety of the motoring public by stopping trucks to check for safety violations and review compliance with driving hours, log books and other safety regulations.

Nationwide, an average of 5,000 motorists a year are killed in accidents with large trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The change in Arizona enforcement is meant to allow authorities to concentrate manpower on trucks that are overtly violating the law, rather than stopping trucks that are committing no apparent violation.

“Here’s what I told our officers: if you have a vehicle that goes by with a poor safety rating, but they’re not currently committing a traffic violation or any other obvious violation of regulations, then let’s go find one that is,” said Lt. Col. Jack Hegarty. “There’s no shortage of commercial vehicles that have bad ratings and they’re committing traffic violations.”

Safety advocates aren’t buying it.

“The bad actors will start running footloose and fancy free,” said Gerald Donaldson, of the Associates for Highway and Auto Safety.