As comedian Tracy Morgan’s car crash continues to make headlines, attention is once again refocused on the dangers of drowsy driving and the many risks truckers are exposing themselves – and other drivers – to.
The 45-year-old former 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live star and six of his associates present in his limo on the evening of June 7th were involved in a six-vehicle pile-up that killed James “Uncle Jimmy Mack” Mcnair and left Morgan and his assistant, Jeffrey Millea, critically injured. The group was coming back to New York from a tour date in Delaware when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of Morgan’s Mercedez-Benz Sprinter limo bus on the New Jersey Turnpike, flipping it over, along with two other passenger cars, two trucks, and one SUV. McNair died at the scene, while Morgan suffered a broken leg and several other bodily injuries, for which he has since received extensive medical treatment and physical rehabilitation.
The truck driver, a Walmart employee driving a company truck, was reportedly dozing at the wheel and failed to notice traffic ahead, hitting the limousine and causing it to overturn. According to the criminal complaint, 35-year-old Kevin Roper had not slept for more than 24 consecutive hours when the accident occurred, having commuted 700 miles from his residence in Jonesboro, Ge., to a Walmart facility in Delaware before even starting his shift. He has been charged with one count of vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto. If found guilty on all charges, Roper faces up to 15 years behind bars.
Now, Morgan, Jeffrey Millea, his wife Krista Millea, and Ardie Fuqua are suing Walmart for negligence and reckless conduct for allowing its employee to operate the vehicle fatigued, alleging that, “Walmart knew or should have known” that Roper had been “awake for more than 24 consecutive hours.” According to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Walmart truck was also speeding, going 64 mph in a 45-mph construction zone moments before the accident.
Drowsy Driving, as Dangerous as Drunk Driving
It’s no secret that professional drivers are often sleep-deprived behind the wheel and, thus, more susceptible to accidents related to drowsy driving. First of all, they drive many more miles than the average driver – they are expected to drive up to 14 hours straight per day – which inevitably increases their risk of being involved in a crash. In addition, they are more likely to drive at night, which brings forth a whole new set of dangers compared to driving during the day. Unable to rest properly, eat healthy, and keep doctor’s appointments, truckers continue to risk their lives day after day (deaths of truckers in crashes account for 12% of all work-related deaths in the U.S.) for an hourly wage of little over $8.
Drowsy driving is a leading cause of accidents and highway fatalities, according to the NHTSA. Every year, 40,000 people are injured and 1,550 are killed on U.S. highways in the more than 100,000 crashes caused by drowsy driving – and this is possibly a low estimate, given that there is no “breathalyzers” or “speed cameras” for drowsy driving. So unless drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel, drowsy driving often goes underreported as a cause of crashes.
Fortunately, several legislative efforts are being made to reduce the number of sleep-deprived drivers on the road, and car manufacturers are doing their best to mitigate dozing behind the wheel by implementing systems that detect if the vehicle drifts out of its lane or if the driving style suddenly changes. But until viable solutions are implemented to prevent sleep-deprived individuals from getting in the driver’s seat, drowsy driving (especially involving commercial vehicles) remains a serious threat to anyone on the road.
About the Author
Attorney Jeff Luhrsen credits his military career with the work ethic, integrity, and tenacity that drives his career as a personal injury attorney. Having garnered numerous academic awards and scholarships during college and law school, Mr. Luhrsen has continued to earn accolades throughout his career, including a Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating, the highest rating an attorney can achieve in legal ability and ethical standards. He has been in private practice since 1998 with a focus on tort claims and insurance disputes. Luhrsen Law Group, based in Sarasota, Florida, is proud to be a family-owned firm that helps Florida families recover after serious injuries and from legal wrongs.