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Fatigue among truck drivers a growing threat on U.S. highways

Posted: 10:04 AM, Nov 24, 2014
Updated: 2014-11-24 10:08:22-05

NEW YORK (PIX11) -- The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles say that in 2013 alone, there were 94 fatalities as a result of tractor trailer crashes. Those numbers are no doubt shocking.

However, when you expand to the entire nation, the number of fatal crashes rises to nearly 4,000.

In the past three weeks, we have reported two different fatal crashes during the PIX11 Morning News, which snarled traffic during the morning rush.

Back in June, a Walmart truck barreled through a construction zone and collided with a  party van. The impact critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend James McNair.

The driver of that truck had not slept in 24 hours and is now facing charges.

In 2012, there were more than 300,000 crashes involved trucks nationwide. Locally, in New York state, there were 12,000 crashes.

In most cases, the driver of the big rig walks away unharmed. Morgan’s crash and a wreck involving Marilu Rodriguez highlight a growing issue of driver fatigue.

“I thought my son was dead, I didn’t want to look in the backseat,” Rodriguez said, describing the moments after after she was hit by a tractor trailer in 2006 along the New Jersey Turnpike.

“The worst part was knowing I was going to be hit and there was just nothing I could do about it.”

Attorney Alan Markman sees the issue of driver fatigue as a huge problem on the roads.

“If you want to put a percentage on it, I would say 90 percent of truck driver accidents relate to fatigued, simply too many hours on the road,” Markman said.

That was partially to blame in Rodriguez’s case.

“I can hear the metal , his tires screeching,” she recalled. “ I can hear the windows popping. It is something you just never forget.

“I was in such a daze. I didn’t know what was going on. I stepped out of the car and when I looked up, I was walking into traffic.”

In the backseat was Rodriguez’s 12-year-old son, who she thought had died.

“ I really thought my son had not made it. But then I heard his squeaky little voice,” Marilu said.

Marilu’s son miraculously walked away unharmed, however, she did not. She had to have a metal cage surgically implanted in her back and is now on pain medication for the rest of her life.

The driver of the crash settled the case before it went to court.    There was a big reason for that happening according to her attorney.

“Not only were the records on the truck inaccurate,” Makman said. “But the vehicle itself should not have been on the road in the first place.”