Trucker Found Guilty Of Fatigued Driving, Faces Up To Three Years In Prison

Courtesy: NBC Chicago
Courtesy: NBC Chicago

When truckers do not get enough sleep, the results can be deadly. In fact, fatigued driving is considered one of the top ten causes of truck accidents in the United States with 65 percent of them occurring on long-haul trips.

Believe it or not, sleep loss impacts performance similar to alcohol. Your ability to perform becomes impaired if your sleep is limited to five hours for more than two nights. After 24 hours awake, the effect is the equivalent to a BAC 0.10 percent.

For one longtime trucker, he’s learning the hard way just how devastating a lack of sleep can be. Recently, an Illinois judge found 47-year-old Renato Velasquez guilty of fatigued driving and for violating safety laws in the January 2014 crash that claimed the life of a toll worker and left a state trooper badly injured.

Prosecutors alleged that Velasquez had been working for 36 hours on only 3-1/2 hours of sleep prior to the crash, a run that took him to Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa before heading back to Chicago. The 2014 collision ruptured the officer car’s gas tank, sparking flames and explosions which badly injured Trooper Douglas Balder. A 14,000-pound roll of steel, one of three on Velasquez’s flatbed trailer, also came free and struck a tollway aid vehicle. The driver, Illinois Tollway Authority employee Vince Petrella, was killed.

In the end, the judge found Velasquez guilty of operating a commercial motor vehicle in a fatigued state, failure to comply with hours of service requirements, driving too fast for condition and failure to yield to emergency vehicles.

Current laws limit commercial operators to 11 hours behind the wheel over a 14-hour shift and requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. It also limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours.

According to authorities, Valasquez clearly violated those federally mandated guidelines, drastically changing his life and the lives of those impacted by that fatal crash forever. His decision to get behind the wheel is a reminder of what can horribly go wrong when you are not well-rested. Had Velasquez gotten the proper amount of sleep before driving, Petrella, the toll worker, would be alive today and the trooper would not be subjected to a life of pain and suffering.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates have experience holding fatigued truck drivers and their companies responsible when they injure or kill an innocent victim. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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