A recent hit-and-run accident involving a tractor-trailer and a construction worker ended in tragedy for the family of the deceased worker and criminal charges for the trucker. Authorities say that the accident occurred in Warren County in the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 65.
According to a spokesperson with the Iowa State Patrol, the fatal accident occurred when Rubin Ward, a 46-year-old trucker from Illinois, failed to stop for Christopher Wheeler, the flagger stationed at the beginning of the construction zone. Witnesses say Ward swerved to avoid crashing into stopped vehicles and part of his trailer struck Wheeler. Police say Wheeler had no opportunity to avoid the collision and died at the scene.
Rather than stay and face the consequences of his actions, Ward instead chose to flee. Authorities say after the accident, Ward steered into a ditch and drove away from the stopped traffic. Police ended up stopping Ward several miles down Highway 65 after eyewitnesses followed his tractor-trailer in their own vehicles.
Ward is currently being held in a Warren County jail, charged with felony hit-and-run. Police say that the trucker has so far denied seeing Wheeler, something that investigators appear not to believe. According to a State Patrol spokesperson, the accident scene revealed that Ward abruptly slammed on his brakes, creating 340 feet of skid marks, something which clearly indicates that he saw Wheeler, but may have been traveling too fast to come to a complete stop.
Ward's decision to flee the scene of the deadly Iowa construction zone accident was not only heartless, but illegal. Iowa Code Section 321.261 says that anyone involved in a car wreck has a legal obligation to remain at the scene of the accident. A refusal to stop can result in serious criminal charges. In deadly accidents, like this one, a person who leaves the scene can face Class D felony charges, resulting in license revocation, fines of up to $7,500 and five years behind bars. Beyond criminal sanctions, these drivers often face substantial civil wrongful death claims brought by loved ones of the deceased.
Experts say that deadly accidents like this one are not as rare as many people might hope. According to data collected by the Iowa Department of Transportation, there are an average five deaths and 143 serious injuries every year in accidents that take place along roadway work zones. Though those figures are already too high, nationwide an astounding 578 people died in work zone accidents last year while tens of thousands more were injured.
Roadway safety advocates say that work zone collisions are typically caused by inattentiveness or speeding. When approaching a work zone, drivers need to direct all their attention on the road in front of them. Distractions like cellphones, the radio or even other passengers can prove deadly and can place yourself, other drivers and innocent workers in the area like Christopher Wheeler in grave danger. Flaggers, construction workers and others are simply trying to do their jobs safely, it's up to motorists to pay attention and ensure their lives are not lost.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an Iowa car, truck or motorcycle accident and you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, please contact the Iowa car accident lawyers at the Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm PLC today at (888) 278-1027 to schedule a free consultation.
Source: "Semi driver arrested for leaving scene of fatal Warren County crash," by Katherine Klingseis, published at DesMoinesRegister.com.
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