Actor and comedianTracy Morgan was left in critical condition after a major car crash in New Jersey on Saturday night. He was riding in his limo van when it was rear-ended by a Wal-Mart 18-wheeler. The van overturned in what became a six car pileup on the New Jersey Turnpike in Robbinsville, NJ. Two other tractor-trailers and a SUV also crashed.
Morgan suffered several injuries, including broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg and a broken femur. He underwent surgery on Sunday to repair his broken leg. According to his publicist, he is still in critical condition, but he is thankfully showing signs of improvement.
Comedian James “Jimmy Mac” McNair, was tragically killed in the crash. James was a comedy writer and close friend of Tracy’s. Tracy’s assistant Jeff Millea is also critical condition and passengers Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton were also seriously injured in the crash.
Ironically, this horrific crash comes just a week after the Senate Appropriations Committee postponed truck driver safety rules. And today the House of Representatives passed an amendment that will keep commercial truck insurance limits at their ridiculously low limits rather than be raised to compensate the victims of horrific crashes just like this one. Is noone in Washington paying attention to what is happening on our nation’s highways?
The truck driver, Kevin Roper, a 35 year old man from Georgia, turned himself him and was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. He was released on Sunday on a $50,000 bail.
Driver Fatigue Is A Major Problem On Our Roads
Police have confirmed that the truck driver dozed off at the wheel. “Driver failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead,” a police report stated. “He observed at the last minute, just prior to impact, the limo bus carrying Morgan and his party.”
The driver had been awake for at least 24 straight hours prior to the collision. It’s pretty obvious that this guy was using amphetamines or other drugs to stay awake.
Driver fatigue is a serious problem among long-haul truck drivers. Drivers trying to make deliveries as fast as possible to make the most money often put themselves and others at risk by driving without sufficient sleep. They exceed the maximum number of hours allowed under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules.
Less than a year ago, the FMCSA attempted to reduce truck driver fatigue with new regulations. They limit the work week to 70 hours for truck drivers. No workday can exceed 14 hours and no one period on the road can be more than 11 hours. FMCSA Admininistrator Anne Ferro estimates that these new rules will save $280 million due to fewer large truck crashes and $470 million from improved driver health. “Most importantly, it will save lives,” she said.
Trucking companies that violate these new regs by more than three hours can be fined $11,000 and truck drivers can be ordered to pay $2,750 for each offense. I hope that if any good can come from this crash, it is that the Senate will strengthen — not weaken — these new rules and make our highways safer.
I’ve enjoyed watching Mr. Morgan on Saturday Night Live and on 30 Rock. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and the other victims and their families.