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Tragic fatal accident underlies why truck drivers must be able to read and speak English

Michigan truck accident lawyer discusses Southfield, Michigan crash that killed five, caused by immigrant driving truck the wrong way

There was a recent, very tragic auto accident death that serves as a vivid example of the importance of the FMCSR mandating that truck drivers to be able to read and speak English very well.

A 23-year-old man drove the wrong way on Northwestern Highway in Southfield with a blood-alcohol level more than three times Michigan’s legal limit. He collided with another vehicle, killing himself and four other men in the fiery crash.

The man who caused the accident was named Oleg Stetsii. Stetsii was a Ukrainian immigrant who lived in metro Detroit. According to the Oakland County medical examiner, his BAC at the time of the crash was .26 (the legal blood alcohol limit in Michigan is .08).

My heart goes out to the families of all five of these accident victims.

It goes without saying that people who drive cars and truck drivers should NEVER drink alcohol while behind the wheel, even though every year there are hundreds of auto accidents attributed to alcohol. But in this case, the accident was also caused by the Stetsii driving the incorrect way on the highway. Yes, the driver was intoxicated, but early news reports also suggest he did not understand the road signs.

Which brings me to truck accidents and the English proficiency requirement. As a truck accident attorney, I’ve handled cases where innocent people have been seriously injured in truck accident crashes at the hands of foreign drivers who do not speak English and who have very little experience driving in America. Two of these cases were Detroit-area cases involving new immigrants who were driving trucks without CDL licenses, and one involved a French Canadian driver making a delivery in Michigan.

It is timely because now, for the first time under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican tractor-trailers can drive in the U.S. The first one made its trip on Oct. 21, 2011. Here’s an NPR article about Mexican trucks in the U.S.

Aside from the safety issues of Mexican trucks driving in the U.S., which has been a hot topic for years at the truck accident lawyer seminars I speak at for the American Association for Justice, I’m also very concerned that the truck drivers who are not trained in America and who do not speak English fluently will not be able to understand the roadway signs, our ways of driving and our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules.
This poses a very large, complicated problem and really puts people at risk of serious truck accidents.

– Steven Gursten is a partner of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident lawyers in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for truck accident lawsuits. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote truck safety throughout the country.

Related information to protect yourself:

New truck accident lawyer tip: Drivers must converse in English


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