Authorities say a big rig operator is under arrest and charged with suspicion of DUI following a horrific six-car pileup on Highway 135. The Santa Maria Fire Department and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department both responded to the crash, which occurred just before 6:30 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Highway 135 and Union Valley Parkway. When the dust settled, two people were left dead, including Rickie Motley, age 60 of Orcutt and Jesse Donald Gluyas, age 24 of Solvang. Eight other people sustained injuries, according to media reports.
Witnesses tell police that the operator of the big rig, 56-year-old Gilbert Pena of Santa Maria, failed to stop at a red light when he approached the intersection from the southbound lane, instead plowing into the five vehicles there. Authorities suspect that drugs and/or alcohol contributed to the trucker’s actions. The truck was hauling 60,000 pounds of food in its trailer, adding to its veracity on impact. The driver sustained moderate to major injuries as well, say authorities, and was transported to a local hospital. He was arrested and charged with suspicion of DUI.
Information is still forthcoming in this case, so it is unclear whether the driver was truly drunk or high on drugs. The state of California has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving among commercial drivers. As part of its ongoing efforts to curtail traffic deaths and keep our roads safe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that truckers participate in random drug and alcohol testing. The agency notes that around 1 percent of sampled truckers test positive for alcohol, although proponents say these numbers are skewed by a variety of factors.
Regardless of whether or not alcohol or drugs were involved in this particular and tragic accident, truck accidents are among the most harrowing and violent to encounter on our roadways. Trucks are massive in size and often moving at great speeds. They are, by all accounts, the boss of the road wherever they go, and anything in their path is bound for destruction if certain circumstances exist. Just in 2017 alone, there were nearly 28,000 truck accidents across the U.S. Among those, 350 people died, and nearly 9,700 were injured. In 26 percent of all big truck wrecks, the use abuse of prescription drugs was a factor. Speed, fatigue, illegal drugs and alcohol were other main causes.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a big truck or commercial truck accident, you are not alone. Our firm has helped thousands of accident victims receive the compensation to which they are due from the at-fault parties in their cases. This may include lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. We have the experience and knowledge to negotiate with the big insurance companies and if necessary, litigate your case in front of a judge and jury. Contact our truck accident attorney now to arrange a free case consultation.