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Fatal Truck Crash from 'Dozed Off' Driver Highlights Need for On-Board Recorders

July 02, 2009

The truck driver that struck and killed a family of four in Mississippi on June 23 said she fell asleep behind the wheel before the collision, according to the Hattiesburg American

According to the police incident report obtained the week of July 30 by The Clarion-Ledger, the driver of the 18-wheeler said she "dozed off" before hitting a van that had stopped at a red light in the city of Magee. 

The incident report shows that Mary Gibbs, a driver for JNJ Express in Memphis, "dozed off" before hitting a van that had stopped at a red light on U.S. 49. It is unknown how many hours Gibbs had been on the road before the accident, in which all four people in the van were pronounced dead at the scene.  

Federal regulations restrict truckers to 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period before a rest period is required. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stated in a March 2009 report that truck drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours had a twofold increase in crash risk. Driver fatigue was cited in 17 commercial vehicle crashes in Mississippi last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Todd Bates, owner of J&B Services in Pontotoc, said some drivers may feel pushed to continue driving even if they feel tired. But Bates said he tells his drivers that if they are too fatigued to drive safely, they should take a break. 

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader said the institute has advocated for years that Congress mandate the installation of on-board recorders, a computerized device that tracks driver hours, to make sure that drivers and fleets obey federal regulations. The American Trucking Association said it is studying the merits and the cost of the technology.

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