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NTSB Investigates Sleepy Driving Fatal multi-vehicle Accident

Driver fatigue accidents in Rhode IslandOn January 7th 2013, a nurse was involved in a serious multi-vehicle head-on accident while travelling southbound on South Main Street in Houston Texas. She was driving a Toyota Camry. The negligent nurse, who fell asleep at the wheel, and was at fault for the collision was on her way home after working an overnight 13 hour shift at a hospital.

Drowsy Driving

The crash was apparently caused by drowsy, sleepy driving because the at fault motorist fell asleep at the wheel.  This was apparent by a cursory review of police reports and emergency medical technician (EMT) records.  The drowsy driving conclusion was also evident by the tired driver’s numerous admissions at the scene of the wreck. These admissions were made to police, emergency workers and medical personnel dispatched to the scene of the head-on accident.

Falling asleep at the wheel | sleepy driving

Despite overwhelming evidence of the motorist falling asleep at the wheel, for some reason the NTSB decided to investigate it. Predictably the NTSB concluded that this was in fact a tired overworked motorist dozing off at the wheel of her automobile.

In my opinion, this investigation was not really to determine what caused the auto wreck because the NTSB already knew what caused this deadly crash (operator fatigue and drowsiness). This was the NTSB making a statement and obtaining publicity about the dangers of tired and sleepy driving. The NTSB was also addressing the issue of American workers who work overnight shifts and how that may lead to deadly accidents.

Car crosses median

Sadly, “The Camry was in the left lane of a three-lane divided roadway when the vehicle drifted to the left and departed the lane, mounted the curb, crossed over a 17-foot-wide earthen median, and entered the northbound lanes.”  https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf  , http://www.houstonwrongfuldeathblog.com/2013/01/houston-fatal-3-car-crash-caused-by-drowsy-driver-asleep-at-the-wheel.shtml

The Camry crashed into a 2005 Lincoln LS passenger vehicle which was travelling northbound. The Lincoln was redirected and rear ended by a 2000 Toyota Avalon car. The Lincoln and Toyota travelled another 60 feet before coming to a stop. NTSB report

For more information see “HPD: Driver fell asleep before causing fatal crash” http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/HPD-Driver-fell-asleep-before-causing-fatal-crash-4172216.php

AAA report

See: the AAA report “Asleep at the Wheel The Prevalence and Impact of Drowsy Driving” “A study using data from years 1989 through 1993 reported that that 0.9% of all police-reportedcrashes and 3.6% of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver (Knipling & Wang, 1994).” https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2010DrowsyDrivingReport_1.pdf

Sadly, the motorist driving the Lincoln was killed in the fatal, drowsy driving motor vehicle collision. It is unclear whether wrongful death litigation is being pursued as a result of the deadly wreck by personal injury lawyers in Texas.  In many cases wrongful death attorneys attempt to settle the cause of action before pursuing wrongful death litigation in Court. The drowsy and sleepy driving motorist was treated for injuries at a hospital. The operator of the Avalon was not injured in the automobile crash. All automobile motorists involved in the mishap were wearing seat belts at the time of the motor vehicle collision. https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

Driver lawyers UP

The Camry driver was interviewed by the NTSB and may have “lawyered up” by that time because she told the NTSB a far different story then she told emergency personnel on the day of the head on crash. It is not uncommon for Insurance Defense Injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys to influence the testimony of a tortfeasor in an ongoing investigation.

NTSB takes statement

In a self-serving questionable statement, she told the NTSB “She described the loss of control event as moving slightly into the left lane and then steering back into the center lane. She did not know if there was a problem with her car, and she tried to apply the brakes but instead went into the opposing traffic lanes, where she collided with another car.” https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

However, she told an EMT at the scene of the car wreck that she had ““dozed off and fallen asleep.” The police officer who investigated the multi vehicular collision reported that “that the Camry driver stated she did not know what happened until she woke up in the vehicle with the air bags deployed. The officer described her as being dazed, and she appeared and sounded as if she were groggy from being fatigued.” She told a different officer that she fell asleep. Id. Furthermore “In an interview with a Houston police drug recognition expert officer at the hospital, the driver stated that she was tired and dozed off.” https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

CDC reports | sleepy driving

The CDC reported that “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 730 in 2009) and 2.0% of all crashes with nonfatal injuries (approximately 30,000 in 2009) involve drowsy driving”  “Fatalities and injuries are more likely in motor vehicle crashes that involve drowsy driving compared with non-drowsy driving crashes.” http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6151a1.htm

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled out distracted driving and texting while driving as cause of the vehicle accident because there was no proof she was using her cell phone or operating a GPS or smart phone. This was also not a drunk or drugged driving accident and prescription medications did not play a role.

The hospital claimed that they allowed nurses to use a hospital rooms for naps or rest. Curiously, several workers were not aware of such rest rooms. But nurses did state “The other nurses commented that they had heard similar stories of employees sleeping in their vehicles prior to driving home.” https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

After a very extensive “investigation” the NTSB came to the obvious conclusion that police and emergency personnel already knew: “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of his crash was the Toyota Camry driver’s failure to maintain directional control of her ehicle because of falling asleep. Contributing to the driver’s fatigue was her inverted work schedule and her extended time since waking” https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

” Those engaged in “shift work,” or work outside the normal “day work” hours, are, therefore, operating in an unnatural temporal environment. Social interactions with friends and family members or at sporting and cultural events—and even common activities, such as shopping or watching television—are difficult when on a non-diurnal schedule. Changing to a normal schedule to accommodate these life activities, even for as little as a day, can completely erase any
adaptation to the shift work. However, many people do so because of their desire to
participate in the more regular activities of life.” https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/HAB1402.pdf

If you were injured in a car accident in Rhode Island, please contact RI personal Injury Attorney David Slepkow 401-437-1100 www.ripersonalinjurylaw.com