Sleep Deprivation Possible Cause of Fatal Semi Tractor-trailer Crash that Killed Maryland University Professor

Recent news reports tying the dangers of sleep deprivation to traffic accidents involving heavy, over-the-road delivery trucks and tractor-trailers have been punctuated by actual stories of fatal and near fatal crashes between passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers. Not only do these relatively large motor carriers pose a threat to passenger cars, light trucks and minivans filled with families, pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles can also find themselves in the crosshairs of a commercial truck and its potentially impaired driver.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers and trucking accident attorneys, I and my colleagues have seen the result of highway and urban collisions between smaller vehicles and these much more massive trucks. If a truck driver is not fit to drive, a potential accident can be lurking around the very next turn. Sleep deprivation, as well as other modes of driver impairment can increase the odds of a collision, which rarely comes out well for the occupants of a smaller passenger car.

In the case of a Maryland university professor killed in an out-of-state highway crash involving a semi, it would appear that police believed that the driver of the big rig may have been sleep deprived prior to the accident. If so, the unfortunate woman and her two injured children riding with her would be three more statistics added to the ever-growing list of tragic and unnecessary trucking accidents.

According to reports, authorities at the Ohio State Highway Patrol believe that driver fatigue may have factored into the deadly August 16 multi-vehicle accident that killed 47-year-old Susan P. Slattery and injured her two sons traveling with her. Based on police reports, the semi allegedly barreled into the rear of the Maryland resident’s 2010 Ford Focus.

The crash caused Slattery’s compact car to be pushed into another tractor-trailer. Resulting in a multi-vehicle collision involving five cars and three big rigs. Slattery, a Cockeysville resident, died in the crash. Her 12-year-old boy was listed in critical condition at a local hospital with what emergency personnel referred to as “multiple systems trauma.” Slattery’s 16-year-old son was in fair condition, with injuries listed as a possible hip and left foot fracture, multiple abrasions and lacerations, according to reports.

At the time of the news article, police were considering pressing charges against the truck driver, who was hauling a triple trailer at the time. According to reports, the driver admitted to dozing off “for a few seconds” shortly before noon that day. The driver told police he tried to “take evasive action” after he woke up, “but it was too late.” Authorities report that the trucker admitted he started at 3am that morning and only gotten three hours of sleep before work.

Sleep deprivation may be cause of fatal crash,, August 22, 2010

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