Truck Accidents — Fatigue, Impairment and Violations
Across the interstates and highways of America, trucking accidents are happening at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, many of these fatal collisions are avoidable. Errors due to fatigue, texting, and driver impairment are frequently found to be the causes of these collisions.
For instance, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was recently in a tragic collision where the vehicle he was riding in was struck from behind by a Walmart truck. The “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star suffered near-fatal injuries and his friend, James McNair, was killed in the collision. A report by the federal transportation safety investigators indicated that the driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, was fatigued at the time of the crash. Roper had been on the job for 13.5 hours and had not slept in over 24 hours. Roper’s schedule clearly violated federal rules, which permit truck drivers to only work up to fourteen hours a day with a minimum of eleven hours behind the wheel.
In another notable case, Kelli Lynne Groves, a 36-year-old first grade teacher and her two small children were traveling on U.S. Route 101 in California when Charles Allison Jr. rear ended her vehicle and sent it spiraling out of control. Mrs. Grove’s car ploughed through the guardrail on a busy overpass and the family was left helplessly dangling over the edge of the bridge. Fortunately, the entire family survived the harrowing ordeal with only moderate injuries. The truck driver perished on scene after his truck plummeted into the creek below and burst into flames. An autopsy later showed that he was under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of the crash.
In 2013, another unthinkable tragedy happened when a truck driver in a fuel tanker slammed into an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer parked on the side of the road helping a stranded motorist. The officer was killed and the truck driver, Juan Espinoza, was charged with murder. An investigation uncovered that Espinoza was looking at scantily clad women on Facebook at the time of the crash instead of watching the road.
State and Federal guidelines exist to curb this wildly dangerous epidemic. For instance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published new rules that restrict texting and using handheld mobile devices by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle. According to the FMCSA, the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for commercial motor vehicle drivers who text while driving. Texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling almost 400 feet. Penalties for using a phone while driving a commercial motor vehicle include fines, driver disqualification by the FMCSA, and potential criminal sanctions.
The FMCSA is also trying to combat the problem of driver impairment and driver fatigue. The organization carries out random drug and alcohol testing on drivers of trucking and busing companies. It also implemented “hours-of-service” rules limiting the time truck and bus drivers are permitted to drive and when they must take rest breaks. Unfortunately, time is money and it not uncommon for drivers to craft clever ways to get around these limitations while appearing to comply.
At Searcy Denney, our accomplished trucking accident lawyers are well-versed in the laws regulating the commercial trucking industry. Our thorough crash investigations often uncover violations of FMSCA rules and other laws that strengthen our client’s case. If you or someone you are close to has been the victim of a trucking crash, contract an attorney immediately to discuss your case and begin an investigation.