What Impact Does Truck Driver Fatigue Have on Traffic Accidents?
October 28, 2020
Drowsy driving continues to be a serious problem in the trucking industry. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatigue and drowsiness are one of the leading causes of serious truck accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 6,000 deaths are caused by drowsy driving each year. Most truck accident victims are occupants of passenger vehicles. An experienced truck accident lawyer will work closely with victims to provide the help they deserve.
How Common are Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents?
The following statistics show how often truck drivers get behind the wheel of a massive commercial truck after getting too little sleep:
- Thirty-four percent of truck drivers said that they nodded off or fell asleep while driving.
- Twenty-four percent of truck drivers said that they had a near-miss incident within the past week.
- Twelve percent of truck drivers admitted to having two or more near-misses within the past week.
- Seven percent of truck drivers said that they felt drowsy when on duty.
How Dangerous is Drowsy Driving?
People may not consider drowsy driving to be as dangerous as drunk driving or distracted driving, but federal regulators have found that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving for the following reasons:
- Fatigue slows a driver’s thought process and reaction time.
- Fatigue affects judgment and vision.
- Fatigue impairs drivers’ senses and abilities.
- Fatigue causes drivers to nod off or fall asleep behind the wheel.
What are the Hours of Service Regulations?
In an effort to ensure that truck drivers get enough sleep and prevent drowsy driving accidents from occurring, the federal government has implemented hours of service regulations that all truck drivers must follow, including these rules:
- Truck drivers may not drive after driving 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truck drivers may not drive after being on duty 14 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truck drivers may not drive after being on duty 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
Unfortunately, these regulations are not always enforced, and truck drivers will often continue driving, even if they exceeded the number of hours behind the wheel, so they can deliver their cargo on time. Oftentimes, a truck driver’s pay will be docked if he or she does not meet the delivery deadline.
What are the Main Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue?
There are several factors that may contribute to truck driver fatigue, and some drivers may be more vulnerable to fatigue than others. Even if drivers adhere to the hours of service regulations, they can experience fatigue as they approach the end of their shift. The following are common causes of fatigue among truck drivers:
- Illness: If a truck driver is sick or is getting over an illness, he or she may feel fatigued as the body recovers. However, the truck driver’s schedule may not allow for regular breaks throughout the day, which can lead to increased fatigue.
- Medications: Certain prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can cause drowsiness, which can increase the risk for driver fatigue.
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Truck drivers who are operating their trucks while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also likely to become drowsy. This can be a deadly combination, particularly when there are other vehicles in the vicinity.
- Working unusual shifts: If a truck driver is constantly working an overnight shift or changes shifts regularly, it can be difficult to adjust to staying awake through the night or adjusting to different shift times. In addition, this can disrupt the driver’s normal circadian rhythm.
- Poor planning: Truck drivers cannot simply pull over anywhere and rest. Commercial trucks are massive vehicles that take up a significant amount of space. Truckers need to plan ahead to ensure that there are truck stops or other places where they can safely stop to rest or sleep.
- Sleep apnea: This is a sleep disorder that causes the individual to stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night.
What are the Common Signs of Drowsy Driving?
It can be intimidating driving near a large commercial truck, particularly when the truck is traveling at a high speed. Unfortunately, commercial truck drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel compared to other drivers. When sharing the road with these massive vehicles, motorists can avoid getting into a truck accident by being aware of common warning signs. Fatigued drivers often display the following driving behavior:
- Missing their exit
- Constant yawning and frequent blinking
- Drifting in and out of lanes
- Hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road
Motorists who observe any of these behaviors are urged to quickly move away from the truck. If the driver needs to pass the truck, he or she should use extreme caution and put distance between his or her car and the truck as quickly as possible.
What Injuries are Caused by Truck Accidents Related to Drowsy Driving?
Truck accident injuries tend to be severe because of the massive size and weight of the average truck. If a truck accident victim is lucky enough to survive the accident, it is likely that he or she will suffer serious injuries. The following are examples of injuries that are caused by drowsy driving-related truck accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries, and head, neck, and spinal injuries: Depending on the severity of the injury, these injuries can cause permanent impairments that require ongoing treatment and even long-term care. Some head, back, and neck injuries can cause temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Soft tissue injuries: These include sprains, strains, and pulled muscles. Oftentimes, these injuries will heal over the course of a few weeks. However, more severe soft tissue injuries may require surgery, which will take longer to heal and comes with an increased risk of infection.
- Fractures and broken bones: Minor fractures may heal on their own, but some may require surgery, including compound fractures that break the skin. These require more healing time, particularly if an infection develops.
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises: Although these injuries are not as severe as a traumatic brain injury or a broken bone, an open cut can become serious if it becomes infected, or if the accident victim has an underlying condition, such as diabetes or cancer.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents are traumatic, particularly for the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved. Therefore, it is crucial to know what steps to take immediately following an accident.
- Report the accident: If the motorist is physically able to do so, he or she should call 911 and report the accident so that police and emergency medical technicians can be sent to the accident scene.
- Seek medical attention: This is crucial after a truck accident, owing to the devastating nature of these accidents. Even if the motorist did not suffer life-threatening injuries, he or she should seek medical care to rule out any injuries that may be masked by the rush of adrenaline.
- Notify the insurance company: An injured motorist should provide as much detailed information about the accident as possible but avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as admitting fault.
- Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer: A skilled truck accident lawyer will take every step necessary to ensure that the injured party’s legal rights are protected.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Seek Justice for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident involving a fatigued driver, do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia truck accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. Our dedicated team will address all your questions and concerns. For a free consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.