In June of 2014, a devastating truck accident on the New Jersey Turnpike left comedian James McNair dead and actor Tracy Morgan with a serious brain injury. The driver of the truck failed to slow down despite signs warning of construction on the road, and slammed into the back of Morgan’s limo van.
During the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, it was discovered that the driver had been driving for 28 hours prior to the accident, without sleep. While he previously plead not guilty to charges related to the accident, he recently accepted a plea bargain that would keep him out of jail. If the driver completes 300 hours of community service and participates in a three-year pre-trial intervention program, the courts will dismiss his charges and expunge his record.
Drowsy Driving Is as Bad as Drunk Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 25 adult drivers surveyed reported falling asleep at the wheel within the last 30 days. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drowsy driving was a factor in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2013. They believe that these numbers are fairly conservative, claiming that as many as 6,000 deaths per year may be the result of drowsy driving.
Falling asleep at the wheel is not the only danger of drowsy driving. Drowsiness robs the driver of his or her ability to focus on the road ahead. It can mean slower reaction times when a driver needs to make a sudden more, like braking or steering around hazards. It may also lead to bad decision making on the road.
Drowsy driving is most common among people who do not get enough sleep, commercial drivers working long hours, night shift workers, drivers who take medication and drivers with undiagnosed sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
If you are driving and you notice any symptoms of drowsiness, such as yawning, frequent blinking, missing your exit, driving over rumble strips or difficulty remembering the past few miles, it is important to find a safe place to park and to take a short nap or switch drivers. As shown above in the Tracy Morgan case, drowsy driving can lead to devastating personal injury or wrongful death.