$afety $aves - Jason Todhunter

We recently had a log truck accident where a pickup turned left directly in front of an oncoming log truck on a two-lane highway. This part of the highway was out of town with a 70/65 MPH speed limit. The pickup that caused the accident was trying to turn onto a secondary county road in a rural area with not a lot of traffic. The roads were slick, however in this case the accident would most likely have happened if the roads were dry as that’s how close the truck was when the other driver turned in front of him. The log hauler was unable to go into the left lane because of an oncoming car so had no options other that to hit the pickup broadside.

This impact damaged the log truck and pushed it across the highway and into the ditch on the opposite side of the road, thanks to the log hauler’s driving, it missed the oncoming car. The log truck was an empty self-loader with a very experienced driver who somehow managed to keep the truck on its wheels. The log truck went through the ditch, a fence, down a steep hill and into a sharp draw where a bunch of big rocks tore the front axle off and finally stopped it. This truck was nearly new and may or may not be totaled.

Thankfully both drivers in this accident were wearing seatbelts and aside from some relatively minor injuries to the pickup driver, both were fine. The driving that this log hauler did to avoid a head on collision with the other car at the scene, and keep the log truck upright was impressive to say the least. In talking with the log truck driver, he said there is no way he could have maintained control of the truck after the initial impact had he not been wearing his seatbelt. Aside from some sore ribs he had no injuries. The initial impact was probably close to 50 mph with the pickup and estimated 40 mph impact on the big rocks that stopped the truck at the bottom of the hill. Without a seatbelt either of these impacts statistically would have caused serious injury or death to an unbelted driver….something to think about!

Our time on the highways and roadways going to and from the job whether in a log truck or work pickup are definitely a big exposure to accidents and injuries. These days every highway or roadway in Montana is busier than ever and with that factor our chances of getting into an accident increases significantly. I know everyone gets sick of hearing about seatbelt use however they really do decrease fatalities and serious injury accidents. In this accident if the driver was unbelted and completely lost control of the truck it would have been a much worse accident most likely a fatality for the log hauler or one of the other two vehicles at the scene. If he would not have been able to maintain control of the log truck after it left the road, it for sure it would have rolled probably multiple times. In this accident the fact that the log truck driver was able to KEEP DRIVING during and after the crash made all the difference in the world and most likely save a life or two.

Looking on the Montana DOT website there are some interesting statistics that go with seatbelt use. The first one that jumped out at me was this: at 30 MPH a person has the same experience as falling out of a 3-story window. Another one is how to calculate your personal crash force: calculate your crash force with the following formula: Weight (lbs)x Speed (MPH)= lbs. of crash force. Try playing with numbers on this one…it can be sobering! Last is the fatality data from our state: “Seatbelts reduce the risk of death for a front seat occupant by about 50%.”

This accident we just looked at is a reminder to all of us (myself included) to not take a chance and buckle up every time we hit the road. This is something to talk periodically with your crew about and make sure they are all wearing seatbelts; especially in a company vehicle. As our roads continually get busier vehicle accidents are an increasing hazard that we all face to get to and from the woods. BUCKLE UP! $afety $aves

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