The Danger of Tired Truck Drivers
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 Is Driver Fatigue 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
Are There Regulations That Help Prevent Driver Fatigue?
Yes. 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.
What If I Was in an Accident Caused by a Fatigued Truck Driver?
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 truck accident attorneys for a free consultation. Call us today at (888) 493-1629.