On June 7, 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan and a busload of friends were in a fatal car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, a crash which left passenger Jimmy McNair dead and Morgan in critical condition. Within hours of the accident, the driver whose truck overturned Morgan’s vehicle was charged with one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of injury by auto.
The details of the accident are fairly straightforward. Morgan and his group were on the way home from a Dover, Delaware gig when Walmart driver Kevin Roper and his tractor-trailer sped through a construction zone, slamming into and ultimately flipping Morgan’s Mercedes limo van that was moving slowly in traffic. After an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released two separate reports detailing their findings: namely, that Roper had been awake for 28 straight hours before the crash, allegedly falling asleep at the wheel.
On behalf of Roper, Walmart settled a civil lawsuit brought by Morgan and the other survivors, as well as a suit filed by McNair’s family. The suits claimed Walmart was “careless and negligent” with its equipment, training, and rule enforcement, thus making them responsible for monetary damages. Criminal charges against Roper are still pending.
Unfortunately, Morgan’s situation is common. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, large trucks or busses were involved in 3,806 (12.7%) of fatal car crashes in 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). In addition, in 2013 “there were an estimated 5,657,000 nonfatal crashes, 385,000 (6.8%) of which involved at least one large truck or bus.”
Fatigue is a factor in many of these crashes, not just in Orlando, but everywhere. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted new rules to combat the issue of overly tired truck drivers, many of whom are paid by the hour and incentivized to stay on the road. The new Hours-of-Service safety regulations limit truckers’ work week to 70 hours (down from 82) and require one 30 minute break in the first 8 hours of driving. Since statistics from this industry lag for a couple of years, the results of this law have yet to be demonstrated, but the DOT anticipates that “these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.”
Central Florida highways are heavily trafficked by commercial trucks. If you or someone you love has been involved in an Orlando tractor-trailer accident, possibly due to fatigue or negligence on the part of the driver, please let us help you through a free, no-obligation consultation. Call Florida attorney Jeff Badgley today at 407-781-0420.