Over the last seven days, interstate semi wrecks have been responsible for the deaths of five people, several other injuries and damage to dozens of cars.

Some of the wrecks authorities attributed to driver inattention.

The precise cause of a Monday morning wreck on I-69 that killed a truck driver and injured a Gilbertsville man may never be known.

Marshall County Sheriff's deputies and emergency crews responded to that wreck, near the Graves County line shortly before 4:45 a.m.

Deputies said Brian K. Chappell, of Livermore, was driving south in a semi loaded with crushed cars when his vehicle entered the median.

The vehicle re-entered the highway and overturned.

Philip Givans, of Gilbertsville, was driving his pickup south and didn't have time to avoid crashing with the overturned semi, deputies said.

Chappell was killed and Givans was seriously injured.

McCracken authorities confirmed Chappell had been the driver in a wreck on Lane Road last week, where his semi overturned in a single-vehicle wreck involving no injuries. Three other wrecks, including fatality wrecks in Massac and Lyon counties, witnesses told authorities were the result of semi drivers not paying attention or not slowing for backed up traffic.

On Sunday afternoon, a semi driver approaching a line of backed up traffic on I-24 in Massac County failed to slow down and plowed into the cars, Illinois State Police said.

Trooper Greg Miller said Ricky Warren, of Holly Springs, Mississippi, was driving the rig at about 12:40 p.m., when he struck the backed-up traffic, killing three and injuring six, damaging eight vehicles including his own.

The names of those killed had not been released as of Monday afternoon.

On Friday, the Kentucky State Police said Coleman A. Strachman, 42, of Sharpsburg, North Carolina, was driving east on I-24 near Eddyville when he ran into a line of vehicles stopped for construction.

That collision caused a chain-reaction wreck that killed 19-year-old Jace Smothers, of Norton, Kansas. Smothers was a passenger in a church van from Missouri.

At least two others were in critical condition following that wreck, Trooper Bryan Luckett said.

Last Monday, FedEx truck driver Michael Arnold, 57, of Decatur, Georgia, collided with another semi near mile marker 15.5 on I-24 after coming upon slowed traffic, McCracken County Sheriff's deputies said.

The resulting chain reaction wreck involved six vehicles and snarled traffic on I-24 for hours, though no one was injured in that collision.

Luckett said, in the Eddyville wreck, construction appeared to be the cause of the slowed traffic.

"Traffic was stopping, and it looked like he (the semi driver) just didn't look up until the last minute," Luckett said.

He said the investigation of that wreck is ongoing, therefore, no decision has been made whether to charge Strachman.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said, without referencing the specifics of any of the recent wrecks, most crashes are due to driver inattention or distraction.

He said, even in cases where stopped vehicles may not be at fault, drivers in slowed conditions can take some steps to protect themselves. "I don't get really comfortable until I've got two or three semis completely stopped behind me," he said.

Todd recommended drivers routinely tap their brakes to get approaching drivers' attention, and leave a large distance between themselves and the car in front of them in case they need to exit the roadway quickly.

"There are risks in everything we do," he said. "The main thing is to minimize it."

He urged drivers in all traffic conditions to pay attention to more than what's in front of them than the next car.

"It's really easy to start following the tail lights of the person in front of you, as opposed to looking down the road," he said.

"It's really easy to … kind of zone out, and sometimes you're not as watchful as you need to be."

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