A recent accident shows how dangerous under-rested truck drivers can be. Forty-year-old Robert Roger Small, a resident of Denton, Florida, was traveling westbound on I-70 near Hutchinson, Kansas at 8:23 am on Sunday, January 29 in his Freightliner semi. Small fell asleep at the wheel, sending his truck over the median where it jumped a crossover. Amazingly, the truck was airborne for 84 feet before landing and overturning onto its right side. From there, the truck slid across both lanes of traffic for some distance, and then came to rest in the south ditch.

Small was taken to the nearby Hays Medical Center for treatment of injuries. His passenger, 36-year-old Jeffery Duane Chelsey of Sanford, Florida, was apparently uninjured, and Kansas Highway Patrolmen have indicated that both men were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. There is no doubt that their injuries would have been much more severe had they not been wearing seatbelts.

Despite Chelsey’s coming through the trucking accident unharmed thanks to wearing his seat belt, the reality is that as a passenger, had the fall onto the right side of the truck been more devastating, he could easily have been maimed or killed in the skid across the highway. Thankfully, the early hour probably contributed to the relatively light traffic on the road and the absence of other casualties in the slide across two lanes of traffic.

Drivers falling asleep at the wheel is not a new phenomenon. There have been investigations into the record keeping of many trucking companies to ensure that drivers are getting the required amount of sleep time versus road time, but there have been repeated instances of discrepancies and outright falsifications in these records. It is unknown if such an event played a role in the crash on Sunday, but it is a phenomenon that people need to be aware of whenever they share the road with these large and dangerous vehicles.