What a comeback for Tracy Morgan. In the last five months the actor/comedian has made a surprise appearance at the Emmy Awards, hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, scheduled a stand-up comedy tour and announced his involvement in a new television comedy pilot. What makes his return so impressive is what happened to Morgan on June 7, 2014 when he suffered a traumatic brain injury along with a broken leg and broken ribs in an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that also took the life of one of his close friends, all due to the actions of a drowsy driver.
Investigators found the cause of the crash to be the fatigued driver of an 18-wheeler truck traveling too fast in a work zone. The driver was indicted in December and just pled not guilty on charges of manslaughter, vehicular homicide and aggravated assault. While Morgan has made an incredible recovery, the question remains—how serious is driver fatigue and what can we do to protect ourselves?
Drivers get behind the wheel while drowsy or fatigued at an alarming rate. The National Sleep Foundation has reported that 60% of adult drivers have done so, and over a third of those individuals have actually fallen asleep. The results from this behavior are disturbing as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states about 72,000 crashes, 800 fatalities and 44,000 injuries were a result of driver fatigue and drowsy driving in 2013. The agency cautions those numbers could actually be much higher due to unreported cases.
Those most likely to find themselves in a sleep related crash include drivers under 30 (especially men), night shift workers, commercial drivers operating vehicles for long periods of time without a break, and individuals with sleep disorders. This is not an exclusive list. Anyone can feel sleepy before hitting the road.
If you decide to get behind the wheel, take notice of these signs that indicate you may be too tired to be driving:
- Are you yawning or blinking frequently?
- Are you having difficulty remembering the past few miles driven or missed your exit?
- Are you drifting from your lane or hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road?
If the answer is yes, you need to pull over and rest. If you think you can make it to your destination (no matter how close) by opening a window or turning the radio up loud, remember this: the Transport Accident Commission in Australia concluded that if a driver falls asleep for just four seconds at about 62 mph, the car will travel over 121 yards (longer than a football field) with no one in control.
Driving is not a right but a responsibility. Even when we make the right decision regarding driver fatigue, other motorists unfortunately may not do the same. Drowsy drivers are unable to fully pay attention to the road and have slower reaction time when it comes to breaking or steering suddenly. If you or someone you know has been in an accident that may have been caused by a drowsy or fatigued driver, contact a qualified attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C., to hold these drivers responsible for your pain and suffering due to their recklessness on the road.