Falling asleep at the wheel is believed to have caused a fatal interstate crash near Greensboro, North Carolina (NC), on the morning of July 17, 2015. The deadly crash in Guilford County occurred at 6:15 am, when a tractor-trailer ran onto the shoulder of I-85 close to the exit to Groomestown Road. Six motorcycle riders had pulled off the highway earlier, and the big rider crashed into the group. Five bikers survived with serious injuries, and one person died.
The semi eventually came to a stop about a mile after colliding with the motorcycles. Police and witnesses told reporters that it appeared the truck driver was sleeping at the time of the wreck, which would explain why he could not control his vehicle, stay in his lane or stop before striking the motorcyclists.
Investigators will have to look into other cause for the crash, but the dangers of fatigued driving are well recognized. Both North Carolina and federal law limit the number of hours commercial truck drivers can operate without taking a break long enough to get a good night's sleep. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has identified drowsy driving as a leading risk for injuries and death on the road. My Carolina personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I have helped victims of drivers who "just closed their eyes for a second" while behind the wheel.
Tractor-trailer drivers have an especially high duty to remain awake, alert and in control simply because the size and weight of their big rigs make collisions particularly serious. A motorcycle rider getting struck by a semi has little chance of escaping injury and, as this incident in North Carolina tragically illustrates, a high likelihood of dying.