The devastating New Jersey truck accident that occurred on June 7, 2014, is still fresh in the memories of the family members, friends, and victims. Most notably, the comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured after the Wal-Mart truck driver collided into his vehicle. The accident caused the death of one of the passengers riding with Morgan.
While Morgan and other passengers were not wearing seat belts while riding in their limousine-van, investigators still place a majority of the blame on the negligent truck driver for failing to slow down to the 45 mph construction zone speed limit. According to reports, the driver could have likely prevented the accident if they were not traveling 65 mph in the 45 mph zone. The driver was allegedly slow to react to the posted signs that indicated a lower speed limit due to driver fatigue. Investigators found that the truck was traveling between 47 and 53 mph when it hit the limousine. Further, the collision caused a chain reaction that affected 21 people in 6 different vehicles.
Devastating Accident Indicates Bigger Safety Concern
This crash shed light on serious safety issues in regards to driver fatigue. While many were quick to jump on the issue of speeding, that alone was not the cause of the rear-end collision. According to The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), driver fatigue was a major cause of the incident. The truck driver had been awake for 28 hours prior to colliding into Morgan’s limo, raising obvious concerns over his ability to operate a vehicle effectively. Not only that, but this is a clear violation of the hour limitations placed on commercial truckers.
The driver responsible had previously driven over 800 miles to get to a Wal-Mart distribution center in Delaware. After picking up a load, he began his trip. The driver had only worked for Wal-Mart for 15 weeks, but he already had 9 “critical event reports” in that time. These reports could be anything from hard-braking, requiring the use of the vehicle’s stability control system, or other unsafe driving issues. While Wal-Mart did take away the driver’s safety bonus, no other action was taken to address his habit of unsafe driving.
Criminal Charges Leveled Against the Negligent Driver
Due to the death of one of the passengers in Morgan’s vehicles, the Wal-Mart driver has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto in New Jersey. Under state laws, an individual can be charged with assault by auto if they knowingly operate a vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours and cause injuries to others.
The NTSB and others are hoping that this tragic and preventable accident will help demonstrate the serious danger of fatigue driving. More action must be taken to not just enforce penalties for violations, but stop driver fatigue so that this issue doesn’t lead to countless more fatal accidents.