A close look at dash camera footage from inside a semitruck appears to show a truck driver nodding off, moments before the truck crashed into two cars on the side of the road, and a person standing outside it.
The News4JAX I-TEAM has learned that driver said his tire blew out, causing the crash on I-4 in the Tampa area.
On Dec. 31, 2021, truck driver Cecil Brown appears to doze off at the wheel of his 18-wheeler along I-4 In Hillsborough County. His semitrailer first collides with a car that was parked on the side of the highway, where two people were changing a flat tire. One person was pinned against a concrete wall.
According to the incident report, Brown told the Florida Highway Patrol that his front tire blew out, and then the front right portion of truck dipped, causing the crash. It’s testimony that troopers later determined wasn’t what really happened.
“The video speaks for itself. You have a driver that’s falling asleep in the middle of the day,” trial lawyer Stefano Portigliatti told the News4JAX I-TEAM.
Portigliatti, with Coker Law, said distracted driving is the No. 1 factor involving accidents with semi-vehicles. He said the trucking industry has made great advancements over the years in installing dash cam videos, but he said much more can be done to protect people on the road.
“One of the things we try to push in a lot of our cases is, look, you had the camera already in the cab of the truck, looking at the driver, but you didn’t purchase the extra service of warning or detecting fatigue,” Portigliatti said.
Potgiliatti is talking about advanced driver monitoring software, which uses technology to track a drivers face and can identify distracted driving behaviors. The software can also alert the driver in real-time to correct the behavior and even notify the driver’s managers of the danger.
“That now is as advanced as knowing whether you’re blinking too often, or your eyes are closed for too long, if you’re not checking your mirrors often enough, so that facial recognition and AI that we now have available to us has contributed tremendously to improving safety,” Portigliatti said.
Portigliatti said safety can cost trucking companies a little more money upfront, but in the end, he says, it can save trucking companies money, and more importantly, save lives.
″Because when you don’t properly supervise the drivers, you don’t pick up on conduct that’s bound to create problems. It’s going to cost a lot of money,” Portigliatti said.
The News4JAX I-TEAM reached out to the truck driver for his side of the story, but did not hear back by publication of this article. Portigliatti is preparing to take this case to trial on behalf of the person pinned during the accident. They were injured and are recovering. Portigliatti also said his legal team at Coker Law is sponsoring a virtual vehicle program at Paxon High School, which teaches student drivers how to become smarter drivers and avoid incidents like this one.