June 13, 2014

Tracy Morgan's Accident Tells Us What We Already Know about Drowsy Driving

David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons
The National Sleep Foundation has done a great job of terrifying citizens since the 1990s with its annual Sleep in America poll results. In 2005, 60% of adult drivers in the U.S. reported that they’d driven a vehicle while drowsy in the past year, and 37% said they had actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Startlingly, 11 million drivers (4% of the population) admitted to an accident or near-accident from actually dozing off at the wheel.

The outrage surrounding “30 Rock” comedian Tracy Morgan’s crash over the weekend is for good reason.

Kevin Roper, whose Wal-Mart truck struck Morgan’s limousine bus on the New Jersey Turnpike early Saturday morning, had reportedly not slept for over 24 hours when the crash occurred. As of Wednesday, Roper denied these claims, pleading not guilty during his arraignment. The multi-vehicle crash killed comedian James McNair and critically injured several others.

Driving while sleep-deprived is such a terrible idea that it begs the question of why anyone would attempt it in the first place. But indeed, while study after study confirms that Americans are sleepier than ever before, nearly one in 10 of us also commutes an hour or more to work everyday. Add in the stress of finances, parenting, maintaining a social life, and trying to fit in a few minutes of exercise. It’s hardly surprising that drowsy driving is commonplace.