Reporting Mary Bubala
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A trucker going 55 miles an hour falls asleep behind the wheel, destroying the Cockeysville family inside the car he slams into.
Mary Bubala reveals how tired truckers and long hours on the road can turn deadly.
A trip home from a family reunion turns deadly on the Ohio turnpike.
“Aug. 16, 2010: A trucker fell asleep at the wheel,” Ed Slattery said.
Susan Slattery and her two sons slowed down at a construction zone, but a trucker behind them never sees it coming, never hits the brake.
“He fell asleep and hit them at 55 miles per hour,” Ed Slattery said.
The picture-perfect family was shattered by a trucker who barreled into the back of Susan Slattery’s car.
“I was at work and I got a phone call, the worst phone call you could ever imagine,” Ed Slattery said.
Susan Slattery– a popular professor at Stevenson University– was killed instantly. Rescue crews pull 16-year-old Peter Slattery and 12-year-old Matthew Slattery out of the wreckage, barely clinging to life.
“When someone says, ‘This is so and so from the Portage County Coroner,’ you don’t really need to ask anything else,” Ed Slattery said.
Peter Slattery fights back from serious injuries and recovers, but Matthew Slattery suffers a traumatic brain injury.
“He was at levels of subconsciousness for six or seven months,” Ed Slattery said.
During that time, Ed Slattery learned what happened to his family is not unusual.
“It should scare the living daylights out of you. It should,” he said.
Almost 4,000 people are killed every year in accidents with truckers. Studies show driver fatigue causes more than a third of them.
In fact, 65 percent of truckers admit they sometimes feel drowsy while driving, and nearly half say they actually have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Bubala: “So out there on the road, truckers are tired?”
John Paul Provencher, Trucker: “I would say yeah, for the most part, you get tired. Your clock keeps running so you don’t have time to stop, take a nap and keep going.”
New rules issued by the Department of Transportation in December limit the number of hours truckers can spend on the road. But advocates like Ed Slattery say they’re not doing enough.
“Sweatshops on wheels is what they are,” Ed Slattery said.
The Truck Safety Coalition is baffled truckers are still allowed to spend 11 hours a day behind the wheel.
Bubala: “You don’t think the government went far enough to protect the public?”
John Lannen, Truck Safety Coalition: “It defies common sense to say you want someone to drive 11 hours everyday in an 80,000 lb. rig next to your family.”
“It’s an issue, but it’s not the issue,” Bill Graves of the American Trucking Association said. “The issue is speed, it’s inattentive driving, it’s all the diversions. Those are the areas that need more focus.”
Ed Slattery now pushes for safer trucking rules while devoting time to his sons, watching Matthew Slattery make gains at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Bubala: “What is your hope for Matthew?”
Ed Slattery: “Sometimes you don’t dare hope for too much. Other times you hope for everything.”
The trucker who barreled into the Slatterys car is serving five years in prison. The judge said he issued the harsh sentence to send a strong message to truck drivers that they will be held responsible for their actions.