Experts say sleep deprivation caused the collision that injured the ’30 Rock’ star
The National Traffic Safety Board concluded yesterday that the Walmart trailer that injured actor Tracy Morgan was the result of an operator who was driving on just four hours of sleep, working in excess of 28 hours during a 33-hour time frame.
The NTSB claimed as much during its initial investigation in 2014, but the conclusive evidence of yesterday’s report left no room for doubt. The driver, Kevin Roper, was charged with vehicular manslaughter after his truck ploughed into a bus carrying Morgan and comedian James McNair, who later died as a result of the crash last summer.
The NTSB released video animation of the crash along with its report, showing the truck speeding in excess of 60 mph in a 45 mph construction zone, where, at the time, cars had reduced their speed to about 10 mph.
The fact that McNair died and that a celebrity like Morgan was severely injured shined an even brighter spotlight on a problem that has been plaguing drivers for years. Driver fatigue and hours-of-service has been a point of contention for safety groups advocating for stricter regulations, while lobbyists for the trucking industry say it unfairly penalizes drivers with good driving records who abide by the rules. Currently, drivers are required to take a mandatory 34-hour resting period after a maximum workweek of 70 hours on the road. Drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours a day and must have a 30-minute break in their schedule.
Earlier in 2013, Congress decided to roll back laws that had enforced stricter driving regulations and hours-of-service rules, which were nearly derailed because of the Morgan crash. It’s been widely documented that many drivers ignore the rules on sleep since their livelihood depends on the miles logged between trips. It’s the industry’s worst-kept-secret that truck operators are working beyond their limitations and causing accidents in the process. Federal agencies have said that driver fatigue is a leading cause of crashes and highway fatalities, a point that often goes overlooked and remains an ongoing problem.
With the revelation that last summer’s crash involving Morgan was conclusively the result of sleep deprivation, the issue is bound to come up again. Walmart has since settled civil suits with Morgan and the McNair family.