Our attorneys are dedicated to combating truck driver fatigue and promoting safer highways. Trust us to champion the rights of those affected truck incidents caused by drowsy truck drivers.
Truck Driver Fatigue: The Lethal Risk of Drowsy Truck Driving
Truck driver fatigue is a silent epidemic on our roads, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting a staggering 684 fatalities in 2021 alone related to drowsy driving-related crashes. In truth, however, this data is likely just the tip of the iceberg; fatigue-related truck accidents often go unreported and underestimated.
If you or someone you know was the victim of a crash caused by truck driver fatigue, the pain and uncertainty can be overwhelming. Contact the truck crash lawyers with The Law Firm for Truck Safety to equip yourself with the knowledge and power needed to find answers and fight for the justice you deserve.
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What is Driver Fatigue?
Fatigued driving is a form of distracted driving, that affects the cognitive abilities needed to safely operate a vehicle. Driver fatigue occurs when someone tired, exhausted, or worn down gets behind the wheel. It can also affect alert individuals who become drowsy while driving.
Apart from the obvious risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, driver fatigue hampers semi-drivers' reaction times, impairs their ability to perceive and respond to potential road hazards, and diminishes their decision-making skills. All of which are critical aspects of safely operating their vehicles.
Unfortunately, driver fatigue is a widespread road hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted numerous studies on distracted driving, revealing that approximately 1 in every 25 adults has reported falling asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days. Notably, truck drivers are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing driver fatigue compared to the average population, as also indicated by CDC findings.
Did You Know?
Driver fatigue can have similar effects to driving while intoxicated, making it incredibly dangerous, especially when the drowsy truck driver is operating an 80,000-pound vehicle.
What are the Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue?
Driver fatigue can result from various factors, including insufficient sleep and the pressure from their employers (motor carriers) to stick to tight schedules. The long hours spent on the road can also contribute to truck driver fatigue, due to the monotonous nature of driving and the resulting boredom.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the human body is naturally prone to drowsiness during specific hours, notably between midnight and 6:00 a.m. and again from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Truck drivers who haul overnight loads must take extra precautions to ensure they do not become victims to drowsy driving. But that’s easier said than done.
Many semi-drivers are scheduled or required to drive their tractor-trailers overnight when traffic is lighter. This is why, as part of their training, truck drivers learn the risks associated with fatigued driving, how to identify the early signs they are becoming fatigued, and the additional measures they can take before getting behind the wheel to help them stay alert throughout their journeys -- from pre-trip inspection to the final destination.
Trucking Companies and Truck Driver Fatigue
The truck driving industry is incredibly competitive and demanding. Many trucking companies pay drivers by the miles driven, rather than hourly. This compensation structure means that crucial tasks to ensure safety, such as time spent at rest stops, conducting safety inspections, taking mandated breaks, and logging miles often go unpaid.
To make up for this unpaid time and to compensate for delays caused by factors like traffic, detours, or adverse weather conditions, truck drivers sometimes opt to skip these critical safety steps or exceed the maximum allowable driving time of 11 hours per day.
In their pursuit of staying awake and alert, some truck drivers resort to using over-the-counter or even illegal substances. Unfortunately, the pay-by-mile compensation model inherently rewards truck drivers for cutting corners and incentivizes substance abuse and other risky behaviors. Consequently, substance abuse has become a common issue within the trucking industry.
This includes the use of methamphetamines, crack, cocaine, as well as over-the-counter stimulants and prescription drugs. While many use these stimulants to feel as though they can power through long days, these substances do not eliminate the need for sleep. Instead, they merely mask feelings of fatigue. These drugs do nothing to resolve or address the underlying cognitive impairment caused by being drowsy. In actuality, these substances end up making a driver’s cognitive impairment worse.
What are the Signs of Driver Fatigue?
Truck drivers are trained to recognize the early signs of driver fatigue, so they can pull over and rest before they become a hazard to themselves and the other users on the road.
Unlike drunk and drugged driving, there’s no objective way to gauge how fatigued a driver was at the time of a crash. Because of this, other road users must know how to identify the signs of drowsy driving, so they can gather evidence to prove a truck driver was fatigued before causing a crash. If you were hit by a driver who you suspect was fatigued, note if you observed any of the following prior to the crash:
- Swerving or weaving in and out of lanes
- Failure to comply with traffic regulations
- Reckless driving
Additionally, after a truck accident, you will want to take note of whether or not the driver appeared drowsy or fatigued as you exchanged information and share this information with your truck accident attorney. This could help you build a case for your driver fatigue lawsuit.
Common signs of fatigued driving include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Heavy eyelids
- Frequent blinking
- Difficulty comprehending or complying with directions
- Missed exits
- Drifting into other lanes
- Erratic driving
- Failing to signal/ not obeying traffic signs
- Feeling tired or irritable
How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?
When a truck driver is fatigued, it increases their odds of causing a catastrophic crash. That’s because fatigue impairs your decision-making and slows reaction times.
Tired truck drivers might make risky decisions or fail to react quickly enough to avoid an accident. Fatigue can also end with a driver falling asleep at the wheel, which will almost certainly lead to catastrophic injuries or even fatalities.
What Types of Injuries Occur in Fatigued Driving Accidents?
Crashes caused by overtired drivers can cause a wide range of injuries. The sheer size and weight of eighteen-wheelers make truck accidents inherently more severe than those involving smaller four-wheel vehicles.
When a truck is involved in an accident, it's often the case that the truck driver's injuries are comparatively minor compared to the other individuals affected by the collision.
Accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers can result in traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, burns, bone fractures and amputations, and tragically, death. In instances where private drivers or other road users survive such a catastrophic crash, their injuries may be so extensive that returning to work becomes an impossibility.
This underscores the critical importance of truck crash victims and their families pursuing compensation not only for their injuries but also for the various ways they have been adversely impacted.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Truck Accident Was Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue?
If you suspect drowsy truck driving played a role in your truck crash, call an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer who limits their practice to truck accident lawsuits is equipped to quickly and comprehensively gather and preserve key evidence needed to help you get the justice — and compensation — you deserve.
To return the value of what has been taken from you, your truck accident lawyer will need to prove that the truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence caused your injury. Although proving that driver fatigue was the root cause of a crash can be challenging, an experienced attorney has the legal expertise and investigative skills necessary to thoroughly examine crash evidence and uncover the root causes of your crash.
A truck’s black box data, which can include data about the truck before it crashed, is often helpful in determining how long the truck was in motion, what speed it was moving at, and whether or not the brakes were applied before the crash.
In some cases, this black box may even include video from the cab.
Helping Victims of Serious Truck Accidents Caused by Tired Truckers
If you or someone you know suspects their car accident was caused by a drowsy truck driver, call one of our truck accident attorneys in Ohio, Oklahoma, or Tennessee. Not only are our attorneys highly experienced in truck accident cases, but they have also worked extensively with the late William C. Dement, the leading authority on sleep and sleep deprivation. Dr. Dement coined the term REM sleep and is widely thought of as the father of sleep studies. He wrote a chapter on fatigued driving in our treatise and advised our attorneys on cases throughout his life. Thanks to his guidance, our attorneys are leaders in the driver fatigue space.
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