Recently in fatigued driving Category

January 29, 2013

Bus Crash Last Night - Did Driver Fall Asleep?

Imagine a city bus full of passengers heading down a busy city street. The bus driver slumps over in his seat. The bus blows through a red light and T-bones a car, sending it spinning around in the street. Just like in the movies, the bus keeps crashing into cars and taxis as it careens through intersections. This scenario happened in New York City last night. The driver lost consciousness while going north on Madison Avenue near East 81st at around 7:05 p.m.

A frightened but quick thinking passenger, Guy Praisler, rushed to the front of the bus, jerked at the driver and grabbed the wheel. hero bus crash.JPG The driver then woke-up and hit the brakes.

Really?? Now the bus driver claims to have fainted. As someone who has investigated dozens of bus and truck crashes, this sounds like a classic case of a fatigued bus driver falling asleep behind the wheel. The statistics would certainly indicate that fatigue is the most likely cause of this crash.

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November 8, 2011

Sleep Disorder Blamed in Many Fatal Truck Accidents

tired truck driver.jpgOdds are that if you are driving on an interstate highway, more than 25% of the tractor-trailers you see will be operated by a fatigued truck driver. This is because approximately 3 million U.S. truck drivers have what is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is characterized by sleep-disordered breathing that results in daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, micro-sleeps, psychomotor deficits, and disrupted nighttime sleep. OSA dramatically increases a truck driver's risk of being involved in a fatal truck accident. Unfortunately, many truck companies continue to deny that many of their drivers suffer from OSA and refuse to conduct company sponsored screening for the disorder. The problem of fatigued truck drivers has been a deadly problem for years.

In 2008, the medical advisory panel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration - the government agency that regulates the truck industry - recommended that companies screen their drivers for OSA. Very few truck companies have done anything to identify which of their drivers have OSA. One exception, is Schneider National Trucking.

Don Osterberg is the Vice-president of Safety at Schneider. He stated, "[s]o now we're three and a half years later and the DOT has taken no action." The lack of a federal regulation did not stop Schneider from taking responsibility for its drivers. Schneider screened all of its more than 2000 truck drivers. They discovered that a very significant percentage suffered from OSA. The great thing about this disease is "how effectively it can be treated," Osterberg said. Schneider's program is not perfect, but at least they have taken a huge step in the right direction. More screening and regular monitoring is needed throughout the trucking industry.

Many doctors treat sleep apnea with a device called a CPAP - for "continuous positive airway pressure." The CPAP delivers air through a tube and mask into the nose and mouth, thereby keeping the airway open and allowing the patient to maintain continuous deep sleep. Without the device, those with OSA literally stop breathing for short periods of time, and then when their oxygen level gets to a dangerous point, they wake themselves up enough to start breathing again. This cycle repeats over and over again each night, preventing the person from ever reaching the very important deep "REM" sleep.

As a result of Schneider's screening program, the company saw a 30 percent decline in the number of truck accidents over a 2 year period. This has resulted in dramatic savings for the company and it's insurer. The cost savings, in the number of innocent lives that have been saved by this program, is what is really important.

Many fatal truck accidents in North Carolina are the result of an overworked, and over-tired truck driver falling asleep at the wheel. We have seen this problem way too many times in our law firm. As we have discussed before, there are several tips you can follow that might prevent you from being in a truck accident:

1. If you have to pass a tractor-trailer, watch for signs that the truck driver might be fatigued such as weaving or erratic driving. If you observe any signs of fatigue, back off and do not attempt to pass.

2. If you are going to pass a tractor-trailer, then wait until you have a clear path to drive completely past the entire big rig and accelerate so that you do not get caught in the truck driver's blind spot. Do not allow yourself to get stuck beside a tractor-trailer.

3. If you have to stop on the highway because of traffic in front of you, leave room between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you - so that you have an emergency escape route, and you should watch for approaching trucks.

4. Avoid driving late at night. Many truck drivers prefer to drive at night because traffic is lighter, and law enforcement has fewer officers patrolling the highways. Unfortunately, this is also when many tired truckers fall asleep at the wheel.

5. Report truck drivers who are weaving or driving erratically to law enforcement. In North Carolina, you can dial the State Highway Patrol on your cell phone by pressing *47 and then "send".

At Davis Law Group, we believe that the federal government should require each motor carrier to pay for OSA screening of each of its truck drivers, and then mandate treatment for those with OSA. This would save countless lives each year on our nation's highways.

Please drive safely out there!

July 5, 2011

Truck Driver Crashes Into AmTrak Train - Wilmington Passengers Safe

nevada train crash.jpgA tractor-trailer driver slammed his big rig into the side of an AmTrak train at a public crossing in a rural Nevada town on Friday. The collision ripped several of the train cars apart and caused a terrible fire. The LA Times reported at least 6 people, including the truck driver, were killed and scores were injured.

The passenger train was traveling from Chicago to California at the time of the crash. Two of the passengers on the train were from Wilmington, North Carolina. Grandfather Jay Peterson and his grandson Chris Lachance planned for their train journey to be a great summer adventure - destined for a toy train convention - but it was full of more excitement than they expected. The two North Carolina citizens stayed calm during the disaster and provided much needed help and aid to those who were injured.

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December 13, 2010

How To Avoid A Truck Accident In Asheville

truck accident avoid.jpgWith over 5,000 people dying in truck crashes each year on our nation's highways, it is important for every driver to understand all of the ways to avoid being involved in such a collision.

1. Stay Out Of The Truck's Blind Spots - If you are sharing the road with a commercial motor vehicle such as a tractor-trailer, either trail behind the truck at a safe distance or pass it quickly. Do not ride along beside the truck! Most crashes between cars and trucks occur when a truck changes lanes and collides with a passenger vehicle. Don't get caught in the blind spot.

2. Leave Yourself An Escape Zone - When passing a tractor-trailer, you should always plan on the truck coming over on you in your lane. If you plan for such an emergency, then you will be prepared in the event it happens and have a plan for what to do. The most important thing to plan for is where to move your car. For example, if you are passing a large truck on an interstate highway, do not attempt to pass while you are crossing a bridge. Why? Because there is no where to move your vehicle in the event a truck comes over into your lane. Instead, wait until you have an open stretch of highway with a wide shoulder before you start your passing maneuver.

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July 9, 2010

Cary, NC Motorcyclist Killed By Hit & Run Tractor-Trailer Driver

Cary Motorcyclist Killed by Hit & Run TT.jpgThursday evening, around 7 pm on I-85 southbound near Henderson, NC, a tractor-trailer driven by Michael Gray Rigsbee, 38, struck a motorcyclist. The impact near mile marker 220 caused Sean Christopher Newman, of Cary, to lose control of his motorcycle and crash into the median. The severe impact instantly and tragically killed Newman. Unbelievably, the truck driver did not stop after the collision.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol Troopers caught up with the criminal truck driver approximately 20 miles further down the interstate. State Troopers charged the truck driver with 2nd degree murder, careless and reckless driving, and felony hit & run. The truck driver is currently behind bars in the Vance County Jail under a $120,000 bond. Let's hope he stays there.

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May 18, 2010

I-40 Tractor-Trailer Accident: Truck Runs Over Car

Statesville Truck Wreck.JPGA serious crash closed Interstate 40 for over an hour Monday evening when a westbound Lincoln Town Car crossed the median and went under the rear wheels of an eastbound tractor-trailer. The collision happened just east of the Radio Road bridge that crosses I-40 near Mile Marker 150. Emergency workers and the North Carolina Highway Patrol shut down all 4 lanes of Interstate 40 while they attempted to rescue the occupants of the car.

Statesville Truck - SHP Qns.JPGTrooper Marty Liles of the State Highway Patrol (SHP) investigated the crash and reported that the car, driven by Rashad Whitner, 32 of Hickory, originally went off of the right side of the westbound lanes, re-entered and crossed the westbound lanes, entered the median and went under the median cables, and then entered the eastbound lanes at which time the car went under the rear of the tractor-trailer and was run over by the trailer's rear axles.

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May 8, 2010

Lack Of Enforcement Leads To High North Carolina Truck Accident Ranking

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weigh station.jpgA lack of manpower in the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Enforcement Section means that many tractor trailer trucks are running illegally on North Carolina roads and highways.

North Carolina currently ranks sixth (6th) in the nation for truck accidents. This staggering statistic is certainly related to the fact that so many trucks and their drivers are operating outside of the law. In 2009, more than 50 percent (50%) of the tractor trailers inspected in North Carolina had serious safety and/or equipment violations. Of those found to be in violation, more than twelve percent (12%) were in such bad shape that they were shut down and "put out of service." Being "put out of service" means that, as a result of serious safety violations, a tractor trailer or its driver are deemed an imminent danger to the general public.

Of the almost 10 million tractor trailer trucks coming through North Carolina weigh stations each year, only a mere one percent (1%) are inspected. If more than fifty percent (50%) of those inspected are in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, then one can conservatively surmise that at least every other truck you see on the road is operating in violation of the law.

Most states operate their inspection and weigh stations for commercial motor vehicles on a 24/7 basis. But not North Carolina. In North Carolina, weigh stations operate approximately 15 hours a day, five (5) days a week. At many weigh station locations, there is no State Trooper present to chase down truck drivers who refuse to stop at the weigh station. In the truck industry, North Carolina is considered "trucker friendly" due to our low number of inspections.The North Carolina State Highway Patrol says the problem is manpower. If that is the case, the North Carolina General Assembly needs to dedicate some funding toward increased enforcement. It should crack down on the truck industry by requiring that more trucks be inspected, by putting dangerous truck drivers and their unsafe rigs out of service, and by levying heavy fines to the truck companies that allow these drivers to be on the road.

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May 6, 2010

ABC News Features North Carolina Truck Accident Case To Illustrate Truck Industry Abuses

Doug Harrell.jpgOn October 13, 2005, a young man road his bicycle on the side of a rural North Carolina highway from his cousin's house back to his own home. At the same time, a truck driver had been driving his tractor trailer for 23 hours in a row and was heading back to the truck terminal. As the trucker came up from behind the bicyclist at 73 mph, he didn't see the bicycle or rider until the last second. The collision killed the young man on the bicycle, and then the truck company cover-up began. Because of the cover-up, no criminal charges were filed, but a relative decided to go under-cover and work for the truck company. The hidden evidence he discovered became the foundation of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Channel 11 ABC Eyewitness News (WTVD) decided to run a feature story about this case because of the disturbing evidence Truck Accident Attorney Brian Davis discovered during the litigation of this case. Click on the below window to view the ABC News Video and see how greed and big business drove one North Carolina truck company to ignore the law and the safety of the general public.

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April 27, 2010

Asheville Bus Driver Had History Of Prior Crashes

Ralph Terry Dowdle had a history of minor traffic accidents in his bus prior to the serious crash he caused on Saturday, April 17, 2010 in downtown Asheville. The attached video shows the bus driver slumping over to his right just a few moments before the bus veers left and crashes into a parked car and the fronts of several buildings along College Street.

The accident seriously injured 55-year-old Susan Jane Zakanycz. Her leg was almost severed in the wreck. Unfortunately, the doctors at Memorial Mission could not save her leg, and she had to undergo an amputation.

The Buncombe County District Attorney's Office decided not the charge the bus driver criminally after it was discovered that he was suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition. Officials have said that the condition is what caused him to crash the bus. Strangely, no one has indicated what this undiagnosed medical condition is or how long he has had it. One condition that could cause similar symptoms is narcolepsy. This is the condition that causes one to suddenly fall asleep. We have encountered this condition in some of the tractor-trailer accident cases we have litigated. In the cases that we've handled involving narcolepsy, the at-fault driver was aware of the condition prior to the crash and had not sought medical treatment for fear of losing their job.

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April 12, 2010

North Carolina TV Station Is Focusing On Truck Accidents

Pate-Dawson Co.gifToday, a senior producer from a regional television station contacted me about Truck Safety in North Carolina. She started the conversation off by noting how many recent tractor-trailer accidents appear to be the result of either truck driver fatigue or unsafe truck equipment.

The producer told me that she was working on an upcoming program that will focus on truck safety and how some truck driver's and truck company's failure to be safe have seriously injured or killed North Carolina citizens. She wanted to know if I had any former clients whom I thought would be willing to be interviewed for her news article. One case immediately popped into my mind. The case was against a motor carrier called the Pate-Dawson Company.

One evening a few years ago on a dark rural highway outside of Goldsboro, NC, a tractor-trailer truck owned by restaurant food distributor Pate-Dawson Company ran over a young boy on a bicycle. At the time, the boy was riding his bicycle on the side of a two lane road outside of Goldsboro. The tractor-trailer came up from behind and ran him over.

After the wreck, the truck driver lied and told the police that the bike had darted-out from a side road into the highway, and that he had no time to react. The truck driver also lied and told the Trooper that he had only been on duty for 11 hours at the time of the wreck. The truck driver lied again telling the Trooper that his on-board electronic computer (black box) was not working and contained no electronic data about the crash. This information was confirmed to the Trooper by several company executives (including the owner) who rushed to the scene trying to perform damage control.

When the investigating State Trooper looked inside the cab of the big rig, he found two separate driver's daily log books. In the truck business, this conclusively shows that a truck driver is trying to beat the system and driver more hours than the law allows. The Trooper charged the driver with falsifying his logs.The Trooper did not charge the driver with anything else at the time because all he had to go on was the trucker's and company executives' word. Little did the Trooper know that everything he had been told was a bald-faced lie.

We were extremely lucky in this case in that after the crash, a cousin of the young boy who had worked in the trucking business applied for and took a job as a dispatcher at the company that owned the tractor-trailer - Pate Dawson Company (PDC). His sole goal was to find out what happened to his younger cousin. As a dispatcher, the cousin secretly investigated the crash and discovered the hidden electronic evidence proving the truck driver had been on duty and driving for 23.5 hours at the time of the wreck. When the family showed the Trooper what the cousin had found, the Trooper re-opened the investigation and did a reconstruction of the crash - concluding that the truck driver could have seen the young as far back as 1200 feet from the point of impact - significantly more than enough distance to stop a tractor-trailer that's going 55 mph.

The parents of the boy hired us approximately 2 years after the truck accident. Our team of experts thoroughly investigated the case and conclusively proved that the boy did not dart-out from a side road, that the collision actually took place just outside of the truck's lane of travel - on the shoulder, that the truck driver was speeding (73 in a 55 mph zone) when he struck the bicycle, and that the trucker had been on duty for 23.5 hours when the fatal collision occurred. Most importantly, we were able to show that the truck driver's employer not only knew about his numerous safety violations, but it encouraged, endorsed and at times demanded it.

During litigation, we uncovered unbelievable information about how this motor carrier had thumbed its nose at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by not adhering to the hours of service regulations. We discovered internal company memos that showed this particular driver had been found to be "habitually driving more hours that the law allowed," and one manager at the company tried to persuade the President of PDC, Matt Sullivan, Jr., to put a stop to the illegal driving, but Matt Sullivan refused and knowingly kept putting this and other illegal drivers back on the road. A significant number of this company's tractor-trailer drivers were driving over the legal hours limit and had been for years. Unfortunately, this boy's death was the result of their refusal to operate safely and within the law.

Not surprisingly, the case settled as it neared the courtroom. At the time of the settlement conference, the owner of the company told the boy's father that his company had been doing some things it should have not been doing, and that they had changed their (evil) ways. It is just horrible that someone had to die and a family had to be torn apart for the truck company to understand why these safety laws are in place. Sadly, if the cousin had not gone undercover and discovered the damning evidence, the truck company would have completely gotten away with reckless homicide.

After confirming the television producer's credentials, I contacted the young boy's parents and they agreed to participate in the news report and tell their story. The senior TV producer says the parents' story is compelling and the news article will air in a few weeks. I will try to post an update as to the program's date and time. It should be interesting....

Brian Davis is recognized as one of the nation's top experts in serious truck accident injury cases. He serves as a national adviser for the Association of Plaintiffs Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America and is a member of the Interstate Truck Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Attorney Davis' goal is to help reduce the number of preventable truck accident cases in North Carolina.

March 26, 2010

Trucker Crosses Median in KY Killing At Least 11 People

KY truck crash.jpgA truck driver crossed the median on I-65 in Kentucky early this morning and struck a church van head-on. At least 11 people are known to have died as a result. A Kentucky State Trooper reported that 2 children survived the crash. The truck driver also died in the collision, and his truck was burned beyond recognition. The people in the van were on their way to a wedding in Iowa.

The National Transportation Safety Board has already dispatched a team of investigators to the scene to try and find out how and why the crash occurred.Since the truck driver did not survive the crash, it is unlikely that authorities will ever truly know why the crash happened. In most instances where a truck unexpectedly crosses into the oncoming lanes, and particularly in crashes that happen early in the morning or late at night, the truck driver is usually fatigued and/or sleeping.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) require truck companies to monitor their truck driver's hours of driving and of being on duty. Truck drivers are also required to keep an hourly log of their time in what is called a Driver's Daily Log. As I have discussed in prior posts, in the cases where we represent the victims of truck crashes, we often find that the truck driver was over the legal number of hours at the time of the crash.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a collision with a large truck, then you should hire an attorney that is experienced in interstate truck litigation. The Association for Plaintiff Interstate Truck Attorneys of America is a good resource for finding qualified truck litigation attorneys in your area.

January 13, 2010

Tractor-Trailer Crash in Pilot Mountain Injures Driver

clark02_large.jpgA Kentucky truck driver crashed his tractor-trailer in the early morning hours on North Carolina Highway 52 South in the town of Pilot Mountain, just north of Winston-Salem. The truck was hauling bundles of tobacco to a cigarette manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol said that the driver of the truck apparently ran off the road around 2 a.m., causing the truck to overturn. The truck driver, Jeff Board of Sanford, KY, was not wearing his seatbelt and was partially ejected from the tractor. EMS transported Mr. Board to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. His treating doctors said that he was now in stable condition. They do not know when he will be released.

Single vehicle crashes like this one, involving tractor-trailers in the middle of the night, are often the result of the driver falling asleep at the wheel. Truck drivers are required by federal law to keep a detailed log of the time they spend driving, resting, and being on duty but not driving. The federal rules also limit the number of hours that drivers can work. At Davis Law Group, we often discover that the truck driver in a truck crash case was driving more hours than the law allows. Truck driver fatigue often leads to deadly consequences for innocent North Carolina citizens. More than 750 people are killed each year from truck driver fatigue, and more than 20,000 are seriously injured. Thankfully, this driver will live to drive again, and no other vehicles were involved.

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December 7, 2009

Tired Trucker in High Point Spills a Ton of Milk

A Pennsylvania tanker truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 18 wheeler early Sunday morning and spilled a few thousand gallons of milk onto the side of Interstate 85 Business in High Point.


The crash closed down I-85 in both directions for several hours while commercial wrecker crews worked to clear the totalled tanker and the spilled milk.

TMilk Tanker 1.jpghe truck driver told investigators that he was hauling 6500 gallons of milk at the time of the rollover. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck, and no injuries were reported. While it is tempting to make light of this crash and ask where was the Keebler truck, the cause of this wreck (fatigued driving) is no laughing matter and is epidemic in the trucking industry.

To avoid being a victim of a tired trucker, never drive alongside of a large truck. If you must pass a tractor-trailer on the interstate, you should first make sure that you have room to move all the way past the truck before beginning your passing maneuvor, and you should steadily accellerate your vehicle as you move past the truck so that you do not get hidden in the trucker's blind spot.

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