Truck driver fatigue is the cause of a great number of truck crashes across the nation, and it appears to be a factor in the Wal-Mart truck crash in New Jersey that seriously injured renowned comedian, Tracy Morgan, and killed his principal writer James and longtime friend “Jimmy Mack” McNair. Per media reports, the truck driver had been awake for more than 24 hours prior to the crash.
It is time serious action is taken to prevent these fatigue caused crashes from happening again. The technology is here to do so. Ordinary automobiles already can come equipped with systems that apply brakes automatically when closing speeds become dangerous. Cars can have options that recognize when the vehicle drifts too close to a lane’s edge, and can even constantly scan the drivers face for signs of drowsiness or fatigue; these conditions could be reported automatically to the company/operator. Those options have various purposefully “obnoxious” strategies to get the driver’s attention to correct before a catastrophic crash ensues, such as steering wheel shake, retardation of wheels on the side of the drift, and various audible signals that are hard to ignore. If one is too tired to drive, an interlock can prevent the driver from even being able to start the vehicle, much as is being done to prevent drivers with a history of DUI from being able to start their cars while again intoxicated.
Large, rich fleet operators, like Wal-Mart and FedEx, can hardly complain about the cost of equipping their tractor-trailers with these life-saving devices. One hopes that they are not calculating the cost to them of paying for wrongful deaths vs. the cost of equipping for the safety of their fleet.