A Wal-Mart truck driver who rear-ended former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Tracy Morgan’s limo van in 2014, killing one person, hadn’t slept for 28 hours, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The man had driven for 12 hours before starting a 14-hour shift(1).
The Illinois truck accident caused by driver fatigue occurred just after midnight on June 7, 2014, killing comedian James McNair and injuring four others, including Tracy Morgan.
Tracy Morgan – a Chicago fan, told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Bill Zwecker in 2017, “I just had a session with my psychiatrist, who reminded me of something. He said, ‘The two biggest and most infamous car crashes in history were yours — and Princess Diana’s. But you lived.” Morgan was in a coma, and his team of doctors did not expect him to make a full recovery. He suffered broken bones and brain damage before receiving a settlement from Wal-Mart for their part of the truck driver’s negligence. After a grueling three-year recover from a traumatic brain injury, Morgan is making a comeback.
The truck driver responsible for the accident had been awake for more than 24 hours, and his reflexes were so slow that when he neared a construction zone and the speed limit reduced to 45 mph, he failed to slow down or brake in time to prevent hitting the vehicle in front of him, despite signage warning him of the upcoming construction. Because of his speed, he was unable to stop in time to prevent hitting the luxury van. If he had slowed down and braked when he saw Morgan’s limo van, experts have said the truck accident would not have happened, and the wrongful death other sever injury would have been avoided.
Tired Truck Drivers More Likely to Cause Accidents
Driving for long periods of time is dangerous for any driver, and can make it more difficult to focus on the road, react quickly enough to avoid road hazards and stay awake behind the wheel.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, almost 13 percent of truck accidents are caused by fatigued drivers, whose reaction times can be equal to driving drunk after less than five hours of sleep.(2)
The longer a driver goes without sleep, the more dangerous a road hazard they become. The driver who struck Morgan’s limo van had missed an entire night’s sleep, and had been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by automobile. He initially pleaded not guilty, but in 2016 changed his plea. In 2015, although Wal-Mart initially said they were not responsible for the crash, they settled with both McNair’s estate and Morgan. They also later amended their employment regulations so that drivers must live within 250 miles from the place where their shift begins.
Federal Laws Limit Time on the Road to Prevent Driver Fatigue Accidents and Injury
When the driver who struck Tracy Morgan’s limo van did so, he had been driving almost twice the legal limit based on federal regulations.
While deadlines, road delays and other issues can keep a driver behind the wheel long before he or she should be, federal limits how long drivers can be on the road due to the dangers of driving fatigued.
Rules were initially established in 1939, but have since been revised for tractor-trailers weighing more than 10,000 pounds, if their truck is carrying hazardous materials, if they are carrying more than nine passengers and being compensated, and if they are carrying more than 16 passengers without compensation.
Truckers are allowed a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel during a 14-hour work day, which allows time off for dropping off and picking up loads.
The time of rest required between driving is a minimum of 10 hours.
Over a week-long period, drivers can be on the road between 60 to 77 hours, or for 70 to 88 hours over an eight-day period.
Truck drivers are required to carry log books to chart their time behind the wheel. They are checked at weight stations and during traffic stops. Many drivers, however, carry two sets of books – one for legal purposes, the other for their company to prove the actual time they spent working.
While the driver in Morgan’s accident was not technically working while on his way to work, he was behind the wheel en route to work, which applied to his work day and made him less safe on the road.
Tips to Avoid Driver Fatigue
Experts recommend a few tips to prevent fatigue from turning a truck into a deadly over-the-road hazard.
- Proper nutrition. Eating a proper diet – not carb-heavy truck stop food – will help sustain energy, rather than leading to sugar crashes that bring on fatigue.
- Create an environment suitable for rest. When it comes time to stop for the night, make sure that your sleeping quarters block out noise and light while allowing for proper ventilation and temperatures.
- Exercise regularly. If you spend too much time sitting, an exercise program – even walking around the parameters of a truck stop a time or two – will help alleviate fatigue.
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds can exacerbate fatigue.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine can keep you awake in the short term, but it can also interfere with quality sleep.
- Relax more. Stress on the road can follow you at home. Find ways to relax so that you are also relaxed behind the wheel.
- Quit smoking or drinking alcohol. Both can interrupt quality sleep. Tobacco is a stimulant that can keep you awake, and alcohol initially causes fatigue, but that fatigue is often short-lived, causing you to wake up long before an alarm is set to go off.
Were you or a loved one part of a truck accident caused by driver fatigue? Did you or a family member suffer severe injury? Contact our team today to get the compensation you deserve for your or your loved ones injury.