A chain-reaction accident that started when a tractor-trailer hit the rear of a limo bus on I-95 near New Brunswick, New Jersey (NJ), critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed Morgan’s friend and joke writer Jim McNair, who also performed under the name “Jimmie Mack.” Morgan, a longtime television fixture on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, was going home from a stand-up show early in the morning of June 7, 2014, with several other people. He sustained critical injuries, and three other people who were in the chartered vehicle remained hospitalized through the weekend.
State police have charged the at-fault Walmart semi driver with causing a death while operating a motor vehicle and with additional counts of committing assault with a vehicle. Law enforcement officials also released a statement expressing their belief that the commercial truck driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel and failed to notice that traffic in front of him had slowed down.
Anything that takes any driver’s eyes and attention off the road can create a potentially deadly situation. Distracted driving is the leading cause of all accidents, and driver fatigue — often called drowsy driving — is a significant cause of distraction. No one can recognize and respond to traffic hazards if his or her eyes have dropped closed due to excessive sleepiness.
A full investigation and, possibly, a criminal trial will be needed to fully confirm whether the person blamed for this terrible crash was actually fatigued and nodding off. As a Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney who has assisted many victims of commercial truckers who have exceeded their mandated hours of service, however, I have seen too many times how much damage a too-tired commercial truck driver can cause.
I wish Tracy Morgan and the others injured in the wreck full and speedy recoveries. I also offer my heartfelt condolences to McNair’s friends and family. My one hope is that such a high-profile drowsy driving accident will lead everyone to recognize the deadly dangers of not getting enough rest before getting on the road.