The Danger of Tired Truck Drivers
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One of the leading causes of commercial truck accidents is driver fatigue. Truck drivers tend to work long, monotonous hours and prefer to drive late at night; therefore, it should come as no surprise that fatigue and drowsiness can easily set in. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many accidents are caused by fatigued driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatigue and drowsiness plays a role in 56,000 accidents each year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and over 1,500 fatalities. Even if those figures slightly exaggerate the number of truck accidents, it is still clear that driver fatigue presents a significant danger to other motorists on the road.
Why Driver Fatigue Is So Dangerous
While estimates regarding the number of fatigue-related accidents vary, there is universal agreement that tired driving is dangerous. Per a study by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research, drivers who have been awake for 24+ straight hours display driving capabilities that are the equivalent of a person with a 0.1 blood alcohol content. This means a severely fatigued driver presents the same threat as one who is legally drunk.
Fatigue affects driving in the following ways:
- Slows down reaction times
- Decreases situational awareness
- Impairs judgement
- Lack of focus
Federal REgulations Help Prevent Driver Fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours a truck driver can be behind the wheel. These are aimed at preventing tired drivers from being on the road. As of 2013, new hours-of-service regulations were put in place.
The hours-of-service-rules include these provisions:
- The average work week for a truck driver may not exceed 70 hours.
- Once a driver has reached the limit, he or she may not drive for 34 consecutive hours, including at least 2 nights from 1 to 5am.
- Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of a shift.
After much pushback from the trucking industry, particularly regarding the 34-hour restart rule, those hours-of-service regulations have been temporarily suspended while a study is conducted to determine how effective the regulations were during their first 18 months.
Tired Truck Driver Accidents: FAQ
Why is it so dangerous when truck drivers are tired?
Fatigued driving has been compared to drunk driving, with its impact on a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Vision, reaction time, motor skills, and judgment may all be adversely affected when someone drives for too long in a single stretch or has not had enough sleep. For truck drivers, the consequences of fatigue can be far more serious. It’s much more challenging to operate a large semi-truck than a small passenger car. If a trucker is tired and cannot drive safely, everyone on the road will be at risk. A truck accident has the potential to cause far more harm than any other motor vehicle accident on Houston’s roadways.
How can you prove an hours-of-service violation after a truck accident?
Truck drivers and the companies they work for may be to blame for hours-of-service violations that cause serious trucking accidents. Proving these violations can be challenging, but it’s possible with the right approach.
Our Houston truck accident attorneys may use the following to identify violations:
- Truck driver logbooks
- On-board GPS
- Cellphone data
- Stamped pick-up and drop-off times
Comparing driver logbooks with a truck’s GPS will show whether the logbook is accurate. Reviewing receipts will show if and when the driver stopped to get gas, food, or other supplies. This and other information can be reviewed and compared to see if it matches and whether the driver violated federal hours-of-service regulations.
What should I do if I was injured in an accident with a tired truck driver?
If you were driving beside a truck and it veered into your lane, if you were rear-ended by a semi that failed to stop when you did—if you have any suspicion that the truck driver was to blame, talk to an attorney. You may be entitled to financial compensation from the trucking company and the driver for the injuries you’ve experienced. After seeking medical care, you should involve a lawyer as soon as possible. The trucking company will launch an investigation into the accident. The insurance companies will try to determine what happened. Make sure you have someone who will put your interests first in the fight for the compensation you need to provide for yourself and your family.
If You Were in an Accident Caused by a Fatigued Truck Driver, Call Our Texas Trial Lawyers
If you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, you should consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Determining liability in a truck accident is much more complex than it is for accidents that only involve passenger vehicles. A skilled attorney can conduct an investigation into the possible causes of the accident. For example, a review of the truck driver’s hours-of-service log may reveal that the driver had exceeded the legal limit of driving hours. In that case, the driver and/or trucking company could potentially be held liable.
Our legal team at Arnold & Itkin has the knowledge and experience to handle truck accident cases all across the U.S. Contact our Houston truck accident attorneys for a free consultation. Call us today at (888) 493-1629.