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Comedy fans were shocked this summer when they learned of a tragic collision involving a commercial truck and a bus carrying comedian Tracy Morgan. The collision killed three, and left Morgan in critical condition. Adding to the tragedy is the allegation that the truck driver had been awake for almost twenty-four hours. While this may seem outrageous, it should not be surprising—in 2012, nearly 4,000 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks.[1]

While this number represents a slight decrease from previous years,[2] commercial truck drivers now face more distractions than ever before. The advent of text messaging, smartphones, and social media are dangerous distractions to any driver, but the potential for these seemingly innocent facets of modern life to cause lethal accidents only increases when large commercial trucks are added into the equation. While regulations controlling cell-phone use are in place,[3] the Tracy Morgan accident shows that no regulatory scheme can force compliance. Reports indicate that the truck driver was awake, and possibly working, for more than twenty-four hours prior to the accident.[4] If the driver was actually working for this long, it is a clear violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s fourteen hour limit on driving shifts.[5]

Driver fatigue poses a serious threat to public health and safety. Studies have shown that driver fatigue is the primary cause of 41.7% of accidents involving large trucks, a number significantly higher than the percentage of all accidents that are caused by fatigue.[6] Even with the implementation of advanced technology that monitors truck drivers, commercial trucks are still involved in 11% of fatal accidents.[7] Truck driver fatigue threatens all drivers, and, even with increased regulations and monitoring technology, it is a threat that all drivers should be aware of and take precautions against.

[1]Traffic Safety Facts: 2012 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf (Nov. 2013).

[2]Troubling Statistics, APITLAmerica, https://www.apitlamerica.com/public/it-statistics.aspx.

[3] What You Need to Know: New Texting and Mobile Phone Restrictions for Commercial Vehicle Drivers, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/distracted-driving (Updated March, 2014).

[4] Police: Driver Charged in Tracy Morgan Crash was Awake 24 Hours, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/09/showbiz/tracy-morgan-crash/index.html (June, 2014).

[5] http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations

[6] Fatigue and Fatigue Research: The Australian Experience, Monash University, http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/papers/fatigue.html (Feb. 1998).

[7] Is New Truck-Monitoring Technology for Safety—or Spying on Drivers, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertbowman/2014/02/11/is-new-truck-monitoring-technology-for-safety-or-spying-on-drivers/ (Feb. 2014).


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