When Someone On the Job Causes a Serious Car Accident

An Atlanta city sanitation worker was killed recently when the garbage truck he was riding in overturned as it exited I-75. An investigation has determined that alcohol was a factor in the fatal crash, and the driver of the sanitation truck faces criminal charges. Serious accidents caused by people “on the clock” are not unusual and raise questions of accountability for their employers.

Garbage Truck Car Accident in Georgia

The recent garbage truck accident happened on I-75 when the driver missed his exit and overcorrected, flipping the truck. His coworker was ejected and died and another worker was seriously injured.

Following the accident, police tested the driver of the garbage truck and found that he had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. The driver will be charged with vehicular homicide, according to the city of Atlanta.

This accident is shocking not only because the workers are suspected to have been drinking on the job, but also because they were employed by the city of Atlanta. As a result, the city tested workers at the Lakewood sanitation yard after the accident and found two more workers who failed an alcohol test, signifying a larger problem.

WSB-TV reports that one former employee warned his supervisor of such problems months ago. Gina Pagnotta-Murphy of the Professional Association of City Employees suggests that workers with alcohol problems may be afraid to seek help and that they may fear getting fired if they ask for help.

The Costs of a Car Wreck

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety estimated in 2000 that the cost to employers for traffic accidents was $60 billion. Two-thirds of the cost, or $40 billion, was from crashes that occurred on-the-job involving employees. The average traffic accident costs an employer around $16,500.

Not only does a company have to worry about damage to its vehicles, it also has to be concerned about injuries to employees and other vehicles involved in an accident.

The average driver in the U.S. travels an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 miles each year and has a one-in-15 chance of being involved in an auto accident. Because fleet drivers, or those driving on the job, travel an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 miles per year, their risk of being involved in an accident is significantly higher.

For these reasons, employers that hire drivers have a financial and moral obligation to do what they can to prevent accidents. This includes proper training, proper equipment, and as demonstrated in the case of the recent Atlanta garbage truck accident, drunk driver prevention.

The CDC (pdf) offers several suggestions for employers to keep their drivers and others on the road safe:

  • Implement mandatory seat belt policies.
  • Provide vehicles that offer the highest safety levels and occupant protection.
  • Make sure those using specialized vehicles are properly trained and licensed.
  • Offer vision and health screenings to drivers.
  • Maintain proper records of driving performance.
  • Avoid requiring workers to extend their driving day or rush to a delivery.
  • Develop a fatigue-management protocol.

These are common-sense recommendations that can be implemented for those ones who drive for a living.

Who is responsible?

Employers have a responsibility to maintain safe workplaces and correct recognized hazards. When an auto accident happens and the at-fault driver is on the clock, the employer may share liability for the harm caused. Accident victims should discuss their legal rights with a knowledge Georgia  injury lawyer to understand their legal options.


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