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.

For more on this case, click here.

Comments (16)
  1. Troy Jennings says:

    It is not the 11 hrs driving time that is the problem. It is the 14 hour rule. Once we mark in the log book, that clock never stops. Drivers are not given the time they need to stop and rest if they need it cause of this rule. The government has decided on when drivers are tired and need to stop.

    It is a sad story and feel sorry for the loss for this family. The rules need to change for everyone. I find it funny that truck drivers have all of these laws to deal with everyday. If i work a regular job for a 12 hr shift. I can hop into a 50 ft RV and drive it for as long as i want. Guess that RV will not to damage to anything or anyone. If they would look at the studies done by the DOT, over 70% of fatal crashes involving a tractor-trailer is cause by a car or pick up truck.

  2. Ed Slattery says:

    Troy, this is my story and I appreciate what you are saying. But, if 30% of the deaths are caused by fatigue, then there is something wrong and whether it is the 11 hour drive or the 14 hour rule doesn’t matter. Something has to change.

    Personally, I think the elephant in the room is that you are most often paid by the mile. Until you are paid by the hour, things will not change. You should be paid overtime and have regular breaks, like all other workers.

    But, in the meantime, I pray that you never experience what happened to us or to our driver. My heart goes out to him and his family as well. However, he was negligent because he chose not to sleep in the 20 some hours prior to the crash which was about 10 hours into his trip.

    Trucking is an honorable profession. Just like any other profession, only if it is done honorably. I think there are great companies out there but many only care about profits and are not sophisticated enough to understand that safety increases profits in the long run.

    1. MVPHKR says:

      Mr. Slattery, please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. I will keep you and your family, especially your son Matthew, in my thoughts and prayers.

    2. Georgeanna says:

      Thank you for having such a wonderful heart. I will pray for all of you and for Matthew to recover fully through the grace of God.

  3. TD says:

    Ed your views are vary flawed. Of the 4000 deaths not all are from driver fatigue as you would like to make it seam. There was a time when drivers could drive 5 hours then sleep 5 hours but safety groups deemed that was unsafe so drivers can no longer do it.
    I really love how so called safety groups wanna have a say so in truck drivers hours of service regulation but none have ever driven trucks….EVER.
    Why dont you spend your time in the 40,000 deaths caused by autos instead?

    1. whatnow says:

      Gee, a little sympathy for a man that lost his wife and has a brain damaged son. How can you be so callous?

    2. MVPHKR says:

      The man to whom you replied has experienced tremendous loss — the death of his wife, the serious injury of his children — due to the negligence of a tired trucker. Therefore, I hope you will forgive him for being concerned about that issue in particular. (Heavy sarcasm here, in case you don’t get it.)

      Also, FYI, although I have a Class A CDL, one needn’t be a trucker to recognize and be aware of the dangers of tired (and rude, and inattentive, and lawless) truckers on our highways.

      You should be ashamed of yourself for being so callous and insensitive.

    3. colliemom says:

      TD – You are seriously “flawed” if you think it’s okay to criticize his views; do you have so little insight into the pain this truck related crash has caused? I think a man who has suffered through his wife’s death and the severe injury of his two children knows what he is speaking about. No one has more right than he to comment on unsafe truck driving regulations; his life was forever changed by an overly fatigued truck driver. I am so sorry for his loss and pain; I hope he finds some comfort in trying to protect others from this same situation.

      1. IH Trucks says:

        I think every person feels for the man and his unbelievable loss. But he is asking for drastic changes to a major industry. One that is struggling to make ends meet as it is. I think it is admirable that he has the strength to take on this fight after the tragedy. But it can’t be used as the weapon and a shield. If he wants to engage the industry in a fight for more regulation that he has to be OK with people questioning his facts and his desires for specific changes. I did not see anyone being disrespectful.

    4. KMB says:

      And it sounds like you have never experienced the death and severe injuries brought on by a negligent trucker ………EVER

  4. mike says:

    I feel sorry for the family in this matter, the reporter should talk to both sides. No one ask these drivers why they are driving and working such long hours. The 14 hours rules, low pay, trucking company who don’t give two hoots about the men and women out there doing a very tough job. The people in this report don’t give the real picture of what life is on the road . Mary Bubala needs to talk to a real driver to get the real story,and not to two desk jockey who don’t know squat. By the way I have 39 yrs as a local, road, owner operator, driver.

  5. Bob says:

    Willie Joe your an idiot. And keep your sisters out of the truckstops.

    1. whatnow says:

      They are called lot lizards.

  6. Common Sense says:

    I have drive for years and pushed the limit to where I have found myself to the point where I an falling asleep……I pull over and take a nap….Plain and simple …I know some guys do speed or no doze or whatever but ya have to pull over and take a nap….even an hour of sleep heklps you out….so all you truck driver’s pull over and take a nap…..your life and other’s around you are just not worth it to get your shipment on time

    1. Milton says:

      I’m a truck driver and I would like to give my condolences out to Ed and his family. The driver who was responsible needs to be in jail alot longer in my opinion. Trucking is an honorable position when done right and professionally and is integral to this country, I just wish situations like these never happens.

  7. Linda says:

    My heart goes out to the family.. My husband drives a truck for marcellus shale and his hours are crazy, the lowest amount of hrs he works is 14 but there are alot of days he works 17 hrs a day. I get so upset because as soon as he walks in the house he cleans up, eats very little dinner and he is out and they do this 6 days a week. they work 6 days on 2 days off and all he does on his 2 days off is sleep. I think the government needs to stop trying to control the freakin world and let someone else make the decessions. I dont blame the truck drivers I blame the companies for allowing them to work so many hours.I think the companies should get a hefty fine also. My thoughts and prayer are with Ed and his family God Bless..

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