Turning Tragedy Into Safety: Learning from Tracy Morgan’s Truck Collision
Whether you’re a Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock fan, you’re probably aware of the tragic truck accident that killed comedian James McNair and severely injured actor Tracy Morgan in the summer of 2014. The truck driver, Kevin Roper, had been awake for over 24 hours and had fallen asleep behind the wheel (going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone) when his truck hit the van carrying McNair, Morgan, and friends.
The case has attracted a lot of attention, most notably because of Morgan’s popularity and his decision to sue the truck’s owner, retail giant Wal-Mart, for damages related to his injuries. To further the controversy, Wal-Mart denied liability and claimed a countersuit against Morgan. It cited that since Morgan and the other passengers had not been wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash, the company could not be found at fault for their damages.
Over the past two years, the on-going legal battle between the two high-profile players has put a spotlight on truck accidents, their causes, and questions of liability.
Drawing Attention to the Facts
Although Morgan’s truck accident received a lot of press due to his celebrity status, unfortunately, what happened to him is not incredibly uncommon. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, data from 2013 shows that over the course of a mere 365 days:
- There were an estimated 342,000 incidents involving large trucks.
- Over 95,000 people suffered injuries as a result of a truck collision.
- Approximately 3,964 truck accident injuries resulted in death.
Avoiding the Blame Game by Taking Responsibility for Safety
As Morgan’s lawsuit comes to a close and his injuries begin to heal, it is important that the world doesn’t forget what his accident has taught us about truck safety and what we still need to learn and implement. His wreck was an avoidable incident. These types of accidents and the liability disputes that follow can be avoided in the future by learning from the present.
The Tracy Morgan accident has taught us that trucks, truckers, and motorists need the following:
Stricter truck regulations
According to current federal law, truck drivers are limited to 70 work hours per week; this number was recently decreased from 82 hours. Can you imagine having to work almost twice as long as you do now, but with the added stress of being responsible for others safety?
Morgan’s accident shows what prolonged work hours can do to a trucker’s focus and attention. The truck had forward-looking radar with interactive cruise control, which was designed to begin automatically braking the truck when it sensed a traffic slow-down. It was also programmed to notify the driver if any vehicles were stopped ahead, and electronic controls limited its top speed to 65 mph. And yet, these precautions were still not enough to pull the driver out of his exhausted state.
Perhaps it’s time that the government and truck companies took notice of the dangers of fatigue and addressed the fact that drivers need adequate breaks to stay focused and alert—no matter their deadlines.
Safer truck technology
Although Roper’s truck was equipped with sophisticated collision-avoidance systems, they were not adequate to alert him of impending danger.
Although it is ultimately the responsibility of the driver to control his rig and stay alert for possible dangers, the advancement of technology can greatly increase his abilities. Truck additions such as forward sensors, automatic braking systems, failsafe driver alert systems (vibrating seats, loud noises, and the like), speed radar and navigation, and many other innovations can be used to help decrease driver loss of control and increase overall truck safety. And yet technology cannot be the full solution: this case shows that a profoundly fatigued driver can ignore all the alerts and cause a deadly collision.
Seatbelt education and promotion
Wal-Mart was grasping at straws with its countersuit against Morgan, but it made a good point: why weren’t Morgan and his friends wearing their seatbelts? Undoubtedly their injuries would have been less severe if they were properly restrained. Although the accident itself wouldn’t have been avoided as a result of seatbelt use, the fatality and long-term injury effects may have been. This accident clearly shows the world how important seatbelts are and how they can play a crucial part in truck accidents.
Demanding Attention After Your Accident
Morgan will continue to receive treatment now and in the years ahead because of his injuries. As a result, he will incur thousands of dollars in medical bills. His settlement will likely cover those fees and pay for pain and suffering, as well.
It’s not uncommon for trucking companies to place the blame on accident victims. Unfortunately, this may happen to you if you’re injured in a crash.
Morgan’s case is a high-profile example of the dangers everyone faces on America’s highways, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to get good legal counsel. If you were injured in a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, attorney Steve Lee may be able to help. Contact our office by calling 800-232-3711 and schedule a free consultation with an attorney who treats every claim as a high-profile case.