UPS Driver Fell Asleep Behind Wheel, Flipping Tractor Trailer: Police

The driver of a UPS tractor-trailer that flipped onto its side, shutting down traffic for hours along busy Interstate 95 in Delaware on Friday, fell asleep at the wheel, state police say.

The fully-loaded 16-wheel truck was merging off of Interstate 295 onto southbound I-95 at 4:08 a.m. in New Castle, Del. when it drifted off the road and into the right lane guardrail. The truck then overturned and slid to a stop -- the cab landing between two guardrails and the trailer crossing all four lanes of the highway, state police said.

Delaware State Police say their preliminary investigation found driver Phillip Bates, 45 of York, Pa., had dozed off when he lost control of the truck.

Bates was trapped in the truck's cab for an hour. Once first responders were able to free the man, he was taken to Christiana Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

The driver of a Mercedes sedan, Wai Phoon, was also involved in the crash. State police say he was unable to stop in time and slammed into the truck's undercarriage. He was also taken to Christiana Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

UPS said in a statement that the company cares deeply about the safety of its staff and the public and that its safety team is investigating the incident.

The southbound lanes of the highway remained closed for nearly five hours as crews worked to upright the rig and clean up the mess. The highway was reopened around 8:45 a.m.

State police are continuing to investigate the incident.

The UPS driver's alleged drowsy driving comes weeks after another big rig crash that critically injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another man.

In that crash, which took place along the New Jersey Turnpike in Central New Jersey, a Wal-Mart truck driver slammed into the back of a limo bus carrying Morgan and his 3 friends. The limo, which was bringing the group back from a performance in Delaware, was sitting in traffic. Three people, including Morgan were critically hurt. Comedian James McNair was killed.

That truck driver, Kevin Roper, is facing Death by Auto charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.

New Jersey State Police said Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours before the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board also analyzed the truck's on-board computer and found it was speeding at the time of the collision. There's no indication Roper fell asleep.

Still, the crash sparked a debate among lawmakers and transportation officials about limits set on truck drivers.

Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety administration. The rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks rose from 1.03 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009 to 1.29 in 2012.

Trucking industry advocates say new rules will simply hinder drivers and still won't change what they're doing in their off time.

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