A tractor-trailer driver “presumably fell asleep” at the wheel before crashing through a sound barrier wall on I-75 in northwest Georgia Monday morning, Cobb County authorities said.
The fiery crash occurred in the pre-dawn darkness around 5:30 a.m. between Kennesaw and Acworth, Georgia. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tractor-trailer driver John Thurston likely fell asleep, causing his vehicle to drift from the northbound lanes of I-75.
The tractor-trailer struck a series of concrete and metal barriers near exit 273 before crashing through the barrier wall and into a drainage ditch, where it rolled over.
The truck, laden with scrap metal, caught fire and ignited the sound barrier wall. Mr. Thurston, 38, a resident of Millen, Georgia, was ejected from the vehicle. He was taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Georgia, for treatment of injuries that police described as non-life-threatening,
The fiery crash prompted the closure of all lanes of I-75 in the area for several hours. One lane was opened at 8 a.m. and a second lane was cleared two hours later. The closures jammed traffic in the surrounding area for much of the day.
Helicopter footage of the crash site shows the tractor-trailer lying on its side and heavy damage to the sound barrier, which was erected in 2016 to shield the adjacent community from noise.
Fatigue among tractor-trailer drivers and other commercial vehicle operators has been the subject of hotly debated regulations designed to reduce the likelihood of accidents involving heavy vehicles. Supporters of stricter hours-of-service (HOS) rules, which regulate driving and rest periods for commercial drivers, and electronic logging devices that automatically record driving hours argue the measures save lives by reducing the risk of drowsy driving among commercial drivers. Opponents of the measures say there is no evidence the rules would curb accidents and electronic devices would be too costly for independent tractor-trailer drivers.