The National Transportation Safety Board promises to turn up the pressure on the trucking industry, following a year-long investigation that ruled driver fatigue as the cause of a devastating semi crash on an Oklahoma highway. 10 people died, and five more were injured when Donald L. Creed, then 76, rammed through a line of cars stopped in traffic 90 miles northeast of Tulsa. Creed was apparently unaware and never tried to brake or swerve to avoid the stopped cars.
Investigators believe Creed only slept five hours before starting his shift at 3 a.m. He had been driving for 10 hours when he caused the accident. The Associated Press reports Creed had recently returned from vacation and was still readjusting to shift work.
Creed also had mild sleep apnea, and it’s not clear if he was receiving treatment.
The NTSB recommends federal regulators take action in response to the accident report. Measures would include require fatigue risk management program that would make sure drivers sleep before beginning their shift. The program would include sleep apnea screenings for drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is working on a similar model program that is expected to finish development in about two years. It would not be required under current regulations.
Other measures include requiring “black box” recorders for accident investigations and collision warning systems. The systems, currently available for $1,000 to $2,000, give visual and audio alerts when their truck is within 350 feet of colliding with another vehicle. The NTSB recommended the use of collision warning systems in 2001, but the devices were never required.
NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in the Tuesday hearing, "The time to act on all three of these safety fundamentals is now so that this kind of horrific tragedy will not occur again."
Accident investigators claim the systems could save an estimated 96 lives each year by preventing as many as 4,700 accidents.
The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to more than 1,500 deaths per year.