Everyday we are reminded of the dangers of drinking and driving or texting while driving. However, another big danger to Georgia’s motorists and motorists around the country is that of driver fatigue. This problem becomes amplified and particularly hazardous when the fatigued drivers are those driving tractor trailers. Due to the nature of the trucking business (long trips and increasing pressure to move goods faster), driver fatigue is a constant danger.
One of the most recent high-profile cases involving comedian Tracy Morgan illustrates just how dangerous suspected truck driver fatigue can be. This particular collision occurred when the driver of a Wal-Mart truck slammed into the rear of Mr. Morgan’s limo bus. The collision killed comedian James McNair and Tracy Morgan sustained critical injuries, including broken bones. Authorities have charged the truck driver with causing death by auto, in addition to multiple counts of assault by auto. It appears that driver fatigue played a significant role in the accident. More specifically, according to official charging documents, the truck driver had not slept in at least 24 hours before the collision. If true, this violates federal regulations that govern the behavior that commercial truck drivers and motor carriers must follow. FMCSR § 392.3 specifically mandates that:
“No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired or so likely to become impaired through fatigue, illness or any other cause as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.”
Additionally, truck drivers are required to keep a written log of their duty status over a 24-hour time period. Commercial drivers are forbidden to driver any longer than 11 hours after a consecutive off-duty period of 10 hours. Drivers for motor carriers which utilize commercial vehicles seven days a week may not drive more than 70 hours of being on-duty over a consecutive 8-day period.
The accident serves as a wide-spread, frightening reminder of how serious a problem distracted driving can be. The tractor trailer driver admitted that he failed to notice the slowed traffic ahead before attempting to correct his path at the last moment.