Trucker Hadn’t Slept for 28 Hours when he Slammed his Truck into Morgan’s Limo
The NTSB released its report on the truck/limo crash involving Tracy Morgan. A total of 21 people and six vehicles were involved in the accident. The truck driver responsible for the crash killing James McNair and causing a traumatic brain injury along with other injuries to Tracy Morgan, was awake for 28 hours prior to the accident. In addition, the driver was traveling at a speed of 65 mph in a 45 mph work zone. The driver didn’t brake in time, which resulted in him plowing into Morgan’s limo. Given the circumstances, the NTSB is blaming fatigue and speed for the fatal collision.
The driver in the case did not violate the law as far as how much he drove, because he was not driving his truck beyond the maximum amount. But he drove 12 hours (800 miles) in his own car immediately before driving for work. The NTSB notes that the driver “abdicated…[his] responsibilities” by driving under the circumstances under which he chose to drive. The level of fatigue he was under by the time he encountered the construction zone lead him to fail to realize that he needed to brake. The report states that if the driver had been traveling at the appropriate speed limit and braked at the same time, the crash would not have occurred. The driver was charged with vehicular homicide. He has pleaded not guilty.
Lack of Seat Belts
Unfortunately, none of the passengers in the limo were wearing seat belts. They also had not adjusted their headrests. This combination (especially the lack of seat belts) caused the crash to cause much more serve injuries than it otherwise might have caused. This does not mean the injuries were the fault of the passengers. It just means that their injuries could have been lessened had they been wearing seat belts. As it happens, New Jersey law requires passengers in limousines, as in other cars, to wear seat belts. The reason for this is that it is well-known that survivability of accidents is substantially increased when people wear their belts.
Emergency Response Problems
Unfortunately, it appears that the serious nature of the crash was made worse by some failures on the part of emergency responders. The NTSB states that triage was not handled properly and that there was a delay getting the patients to the trauma center. Another patient was moved improperly, without being immobilized.
The NTSB concluded its report by recommending certain changes. Among those changes:
Walmart has already said that it plans on implementing changes which include: drivers must live within 250 miles of where they report to work, or be within 250 miles by 9 hours before their shift. It has also created a structured “fatigue management program” that will serve to educate those involved in driving, their families, managers and dispatchers, about the dangers of fatigue. NTSB wants Walmart to “finish implementing the program.” It also wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require such programs going forward.
Training of Responders
The NTSB, “recommended that New Jersey health officials establish minimum training and practice standards” for those providing emergencies services on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Safety of Limousines
The limo in the accident had only one compartment door. This made it difficult for responders to reach the people inside. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) should add a requirement that all limo vans’ passenger compartments have at least two exits. In addition, the NTSB found that the guidance given to drivers about use of seat belts and head restraints was “inadequate.” It wants to see drivers given information about the dangers of failing to adjust head rests and to wear seat belts, and for drivers to give a safety warning at the start of the ride.
Improving Work Zone Safety
Work zone crashes are a serious problem. Workers are in constant danger, as are those driving through the zones. The NTSB noted that the zone was established, “in accordance with federal and state requirements,” but it did not have enough traffic control devices or other means to warn drivers when traffic was backing up, as occurred in this case. It wants to see such devices used.
Improved Truck Safety
Many cars now have forward collision warning systems. The truck had a system, but it has limited recording capability and did not provide the kind of collision alert that would have gained the driver’s attention. Other safety features and data could have been helpful as well. The NTSB would like to see this changed.
Read the Full Report
The full report is available on the NTSB’s website, dated August 11, 2015.