Amid reports that the trucker who crashed into a limo carrying comedian Tracy Morgan hadn’t slept in 24 hours, Daphne Izer said today she’s been trying to call attention to the problem of dozing truck drivers for 20 years.
In October 1993, her 17-year-old son Jeff and several of his friends were killed when a truck driver fell asleep and crashed into his stopped car. The deadly accident also left one friend badly injured.
“The highways have got to be made safer,” said Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers in Maine. “Everybody’s family’s at risk out there.”
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 317,000 big rig crashes in 2012. Driver fatigue is said to be the largest contributor.
Walmart truck driver Kevin Roper, who crashed into a limo van carrying comedian Morgan and others early Saturday morning along the New Jersey Turnpike, hadn’t slept for 24 hours, according to state police.
Morgan was critically injured and his longtime writing partner, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, 62, was killed. Three others were also injured.
Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, is accused of vehicular homicide.
In a statement on the shift Roper worked this weekend, Walmart said:
“With regards to news reports that suggest Mr. Roper was working for 24 hours, it is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations,” said Brooke Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman. “The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing and unfortunately we can’t comment further on the specifics. Federal law requires drivers to work no more than 14 hours for any shift and 11 hours of driving.”
At a New Brunswick, New Jersey, rest stop, truck drivers told ABC News that they didn’t get enough sleep and said it made them angry.
“If you lose time, you lose money,” said Paul Bailey, who’s been driving trucks for 21 years, “because we get paid by miles we drive.”
Before 2013, truck drivers were allowed to work 82 hours a week. Federal rules, however, cut that number to 70 hours.
Izer said safety on the roads needed more attention.
“People are dying every day,” she said. “You just don’t hear about it. Precious lives are at risk.”