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The Tracey Morgan Tragedy

During this past weekend on the New Jersey Turnpike, a tractor trailer slammed into the bus in which comedian Tracey Morgan was traveling.  This crash resulted in the death of comedian James McNair, serious injuries to other passengers, and the hospitalization of Tracey Morgan.  Mr. Morgan suffered serious bodily injury and was in critical condition.

Although this was not a DUI related accident, the driver of the truck is rumored to not have slept for 24 hours prior to the crash.  As a result of alleged inattentiveness, the driver of the truck drove into the rear of the bus, causing it to flip over several times.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey, charged the driver with vehicular homicide (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5) and assault by auto (N.J.S.A.  2C:12-1).  To prove vehicular homicide, the State must only show that the vehicle was driven in a reckless manner and caused the death of another.  “Proof that the defendant fell asleep while driving or was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive hours may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.”

Recent studies have shown that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Drowsy driving accidents typically happen at night, but AAA reported that 25% of drowsy driving accidents happen during the afternoon.   High-speed highways, such as the New Jersey Turnpike, are where drowsy driving accidents usually occur. Most of these accidents involve drivers who do not try to avoid hitting the other vehicle.

In a 1997 sleep-alcohol study, researchers found that, after 17 hours of wakefulness, a driver was affected in the same manner way as a person with a blood alcohol concentration of .05%.  After 24 hours of wakefulness, the driver behaved as if he had a BAC of .10%.

Approximately 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year are attributed to drowsy driving by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).



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