A driver who fell asleep at the wheel of his pickup truck caused a deadly T-bone collision after running a stop sign in Gaston County, North Carolina (NC), just before sunrise on December 12, 2017. The fatal two-vehicle crash happened at the intersection of Dallas Cherryville Highway and Mauney Road, which is close to Prices Arena outside of Bessemer City.
North Carolina State Highway Patrol and county sheriff personnel responded to reports of the wreck at around 6:30 am. They found two pickups nearly destroyed, with the driver who died at the scene trapped in his vehicle. Multiple news outlets have identified that innocent victim as 52-year-old Orlando Suarez.
Authorities confirmed that they planned to file charges against the man who ran the stop sign on Mauney Road. While they did not specify the alleged offenses, one is likely to be reckless driving. Under section 20-140(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes, “Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others shall be guilty of reckless driving.”
Both ignoring a stop signal and falling asleep behind the wheel can certainly be described as careless, heedless and showing wanton disregard for safety. A sleeping driver literally cannot obey traffic signs or act to avoid crashes.
For these reasons, fatigued and drowsy driving is considered one the greatest threats to life on U.S. roads. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “Drowsy driving kills. It claimed 846 lives in 2014.”
The agency also notes that a majority of wrecks caused by sleeping drivers occur on rural roads like the ones in Gaston County. Three of the most important things all drivers can do to lessen their risks for nodding off behind the wheel are
- Sleeping 7-8 hours each night,
- Avoiding alcohol before driving, and
- Paying attention to warnings about how medications can make driving dangerous.
Following these safe driving rules is particularly important during December, when holiday parties, long road trips and stress combine to encourage cheating oneself out of adequate rest and to drinking too much. My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family of the man who died because another driver failed to stay awake and alert. We also urge all readers to surrender their car keys if they are at risk for drowsy driving.