North Carolina Drowsy Drivers Increase Fatality Risks in Trucking Accidents

Recently-widowed, a Charlotte woman broke her silence to speak about the role of drowsy driving in North Carolina truck accidents.

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Investigators said her 38-year-old husband was struck and killed on Interstate 85 by a 69-year-old trucker who fell asleep. Our North Carolina truck accident attorneys were saddened to see the pictures of the horrific wreck, which left the roadway littered with a mess of mangled metal, tires and shattered glass.

The crash happened last July, and her husband was one of three people who lost their lives that day, around 11 a.m. near mile marker 25 in Anderson, South Carolina.

News reports indicate that the tractor-trailer driver ran off the roadway. He attempted to get back on the highway, but he over-corrected, losing control of his truck and dragging a sport utility vehicle and a pick-up into oncoming traffic. Those vehicles struck the 18-wheeler that was driven by the Charlotte woman’s husband.

The 33-year-old pickup truck driver was killed, as was the tractor-trailer driver. A medical examiner later determined he had a sleep disorder.

The Charlotte widow spoke with stoic conviction, saying that truck drivers who get behind the wheel without enough sleep are endangering everyone – including themselves.

She is speaking out in the hopes of having legislators take note and potentially strengthen laws related to drowsy driving in North Carolina and beyond.

Currently, there is only one state in the country – New Jersey – that has a law on the books specific to sleep-related fatal crashes. The statute – N.J.S.2C:11-5 – also known as “Maggie’s Law,” essentially criminalizes driving while fatigued. The New Jersey legislature defines a fatigued driver as anyone who has gone without sleep for more than 24 hours. There has to be proof either that the suspect fell asleep behind the wheel or that he or she had been driving after going without sleep for more than a day. The offense is considered a second-degree felony vehicular homicide.

But as the National Sleep Foundation notes, while the law has done a great deal to raise awareness of the issue, it’s not used much by law enforcement because the definition is fairly narrow. In reality, a person could still be fatigued after having slept at least some in a 24-hour time period. Under the law, even a person who slept an hour or so could still escape criminal liability.

All states, except Missouri, include some identification box on police report forms to indicate whether a driver had fallen asleep. But because a person can’t be tested for driving drowsy, the way they could if they had been drinking or using some other substance, it’s sometimes all up to the officer to subjectively identify. The sleep foundation determined that fewer than 40 percent of all law enforcement agencies provide proper training on the issue.

Lee Law Offices, P.A. represents those who have been injured in car accidents in North Carolina and South Carolina. If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a drowsy driver and need experienced advice about your rights, call 1-800-887-1965 for a free consultation today.

Additional Resources:

2008 State of the States Report on Drowsy Driving, the National Sleep Foundation

More Blog Entries:

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week Aims to Help Reduce Risks of Car Accidents in North Carolina

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