A Walmart truck driver who had allegedly been awake for over 24 hours collided into the back of Tracy Morgan’s limo on Monday, killing the comedian known on stage as “Jimmy Mack,” and injuring comedians Ardia Fuqua, Harris Stanton, and Tracy Morgan.
Kevin Roper, the truck driver, is being charged with vehicular homicide and assault by automobile. Roper had reportedly been awake for over 24 consecutive hours before he crashed his truck, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. According to New Jersey law, a driver that operates a vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours and cause an accident involving injury can be charged with assault by auto rather than a lesser charge.
Witnesses say that the driver never slowed until a moment before the collision where he tried to rapidly swerve to avoid the limo.
Federal trucking regulations allow truck drivers to drive for 11 hours within a 14 hour period, and require 10 hours of rest before the work shift.
Authorities questioned whether alcohol had played a role in the crash but quickly dismissed any claims and attributed the crash to sleep deprivation. Many studies have delved into the effects of sleep deprivation and discovered that they are akin to the effects on judgment and performance as high consumption of alcohol. According to healthysleep.med.harvard.edu, “just one sleepless night can impair performance as much as a blood-alcohol level of .10 percent, beyond the legal limit to drive.”
The site attributes 1 million crashes each year in the U.S. to drowsy driving. Dr. Christopher P. Landrigan commented that “If you’re depriving yourself of sleep and you’re a police officer, doctor, nurse, or pilot” then “you may be exposing other folks to risk as well.”
Certainly we would not want someone flying our plane or performing surgery on us having been sleep deprived, so why are we “OK” with having drivers of trucks of up to 80,000lbs that take longer to stop share our roadways?
The National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) said that it will begin investigating “safety issues related to commercial trucking,” and multiple authorities are investigating if or what role Walmart played the crash.
The Walmart-owned truck was equipped with a system that is designed to alert the driver to stopped traffic ahead, and to slow the speed. Further investigation is required to determine whether this system had been disabled, or whether it was not functioning properly. Regardless, Roper will definitely face severe consequences.
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