Trucker Sentenced to Prison in St. Louis for Hit and Run

By April 17, 2008 Highway Safety

A St. Louis County judge sentenced a truck driver who drove off after he hit and killed a tow truck operator to four years in prison, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
On April 30, 2007, Christopher Cottrell of Fenton was driving a heavy equipment rig on Interstate 70 in Des Peres. He hit and instantly killed tow truck driver Aaron Helfrich, 32, who was working on the shoulder. Cottrell did not stop but police caught up with him later the same day. When law enforcement officers searched his rig, they found marijuana in the cab.
Prosecutors alleged that the trucker was criminally negligent because he failed to maintain his rig in a single land. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana.
Cottrell, 40, pleaded guilty today. The sentence imposed by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Colleen Dolan was part of a plea agreement.
As this case shows, a trucker’s negligence can quickly turn deadly. When a fatal accident occurs, the truck driver not only risks getting sued civilly for damages, the driver may also face years behind bars.
Moreover, the trucker was driving with a suspended license. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, seven percent of truck drivers have had a previous license suspension. And while the toxicology reports did not detect any drug or alcohol in Cottrell’s system, he did have marijuana in the cab of his truck. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, illegal drug use by truckers played a part in two percent of all accidents.
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