Correctional officers at detention facilities in Oklahoma often work long hours on little sleep. This can be an uncomfortable situation, but it can also be an unsafe situation. That is what some victims are claiming after a series of fatal car accidents in recent months that have involved correctional officers. One of the most recent wrecks led to the death of a 30-year-old correctional officer on State Highway 39. Experts say that many of the overworked officers may be hazardous drivers because of their intense work schedule.
Although it does not appear that any lawsuits have been filed against the officers' employer at this time, the issue is gaining traction throughout the state. One man who was involved in a near-miss accident -- he dozed off and struck a mailbox -- said he has submitted a formal job grievance after he crashed. That man says that the mandatory 60-hour workweeks and long commutes required by corrections departments leave workers too exhausted to safely operate a vehicle.
Another example: An accident on March 4 injured two corrections officers and seven prisoners in Atoka County. That incident occurred after the officer at the wheel attempted to make a turn in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer rig. Sadly, it appears that such accidents may simply be allowed to continue; the complaint filed by the man who struck the mailbox was dismissed. Agency representatives say the Corrections Department cannot control its workers' long hours.
Transportation accidents are among the most common workplace injuries nationwide, so it is no surprise that corrections officers are also affected. Those individuals should not be required to work so many hours that they endanger others by causing a car accident, however. These drowsy drivers put themselves and others at risk, and they could be named as defendants in civil suits if they harm another motorist.
Source: CorrectionsOne.com, "Overworked Okla. COs at higher risk of car accidents" Rick Green, The Oklahoman, May. 13, 2014