Bill O’Mara of Cooper Hurley talks about the Tracy Morgan crash
It appears he had been awake even longer than that.
The board found the fatigued Wal-Mart trucker failed to slow down despite posted warning signs and was responsible for a crash last year that left Morgan with brain damage and killed another comedian.
However, the board said the failure of Morgan and other passengers in a limousine-van to wear seat belts and adjust their headrests contributed to the severity of the injuries they sustained when the limo was struck from behind by the truck.
Most of their injuries caused to the passengers happened because they were whipped around or thrown into the sides of the limo, the board said at a meeting to determine the cause of the crash and make safety recommendations from it.
Morgan settled a lawsuit with Wal-Mart earlier this year for an undisclosed sum of money.
The board found truck driver Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Georgia, could have prevented the accident on June 7, 2014, if he had slowed to 45 mph, the posted speed limit for the construction work zone on the New Jersey Turnpike before the impact. In recent months we have seen a number of accidents in which truck drivers have failed to slow down in construction zones. In June six people died in a nine vehicle crash that was caused by a tractor trailer that failed to slow down in a construction zone on I-75 in Tennessee.
Roper traveled past a work zone sign and then past the 45 mph speed limit sign without slowing from 65 mph. The truck was maintaining that speed until it reached a closing distance of approximately 200 feet before the impact. The board concluded the driver could have stopped his big rig if he has been traveling at 45 mph.
The collision with the limo led to a chain reaction crash that affected 21 people in six vehicles. This is also a common problem with big rigs crash in construction zones.
“One tragic aspect of roadway deaths is that so often they could have been prevented,” stated the safety board’s chairman, Chris Hart.
The board said as many as 1 in 8 fatal crashes, are caused by heavy trucks. In work zones, 1 in 4 fatal crashes involves a heavy truck.
Roper had driven well over 800 miles overnight from Georgia to a Wal-Mart distribution center in Delaware to pick up his load before starting his trip without stopping for sleep.
Media reports stated Roper had worked for Wal-Mart for just 15 weeks but had already had nine “critical event reports.” These reports are generated by a truck’s computers and downloaded by Wal-Mart. They record events such as braking too hard, activation of the vehicle’s stability control system or other events that might be indicators of unsafe driving. Roper lost his safety bonus after he was involved in a preventable accident.
Attorneys representing Roper are disputing the finding that he went 28 hours without sleep.
The board found some shortcomings in terms of how Wal-Mart dealt with driver fatigue. While the company provided guidance to its drivers on preventing tiredness, it didn’t have a comprehensive program to prevent drivers from being assigned tough schedules or to make sure they were rested before reporting to work, the board said. It has since stepped up its tiredness prevention measures.
The board has raised concerns about fatigue leading to accidents for many years be it truckers, railroad workers or airline pilots.
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is the author of The Best Book About Virginia Trucking Accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.