Driving a truck for a living is a very demanding profession. There never seems to be enough time to get a load from point A to B. Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is one of the things a driver may be willing to give up in order to meet a tight schedule. But drowsy truck driving could prove to be a deadly mistake.
Some Facts about Driving a Big Truck While Drowsy
Truck driver fatigue is a factor in many accidents involving big trucks and other vehicles, although exact figures vary widely. The National Highway Traffic Administration estimated that drowsy driving caused over 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and over 800 deaths in 2013. On the other hand, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a report in August 2016 that estimated that drowsy driving causes an average of 328,000 annual crashes, 109,000 injuries, and 6,400 deaths on U.S. roadways. A study by the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute found that drowsy truck driving was a contributing factor in approximately 20 percent of commercial motor vehicle accidents.
Drowsy truck driving accidents most frequently occur at night, during the pre-dawn hours and in the mid-afternoon on rural highways and roads. They usually involve only single driver who has a collision or drives off the road. In many cases, there is no evidence of braking.
Driving a commercial vehicle while drowsy makes a driver less able to pay attention to the road, slows reaction times and affects their ability to make good decisions.
Driving commercial trucks and big rigs while battling fatigue can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. A passenger vehicle or motorcycle is no match for the massive size and weight of a big truck. Accidents between big trucks and other vehicles are among the most catastrophic, often resulting in severe and even fatal injuries.
Federal Regulations Limit the Amount of Hours a Driver Can Spend Behind the Wheel
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict hours of service regulations that limit the number of hours a trucker is legally allowed to drive:
- A driver can only drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- A driver cannot drive more than 14 hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty (Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period).
- A driver may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
- A driver cannot drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver can only restart the 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
Recognize the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
If you’re a truck driver, it’s important to recognize the early warning signs of driver fatigue:
- Excessive yawning or blinking
- Rubbing your eyes
- Being unable to remember the past few miles you’ve driven
- Missing an exit or a traffic sign
- Drifting out of your lane
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side or middle of the road
How a Truck Driver Can Avoid Driving While Drowsy
There are many steps a truck driver can take when they become drowsy. The best way to avoid being drowsy behind the wheel is to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel. If you can’t get enough sleep before you hit the road, try to take a short pre-drive nap or pull over and take a mid-drive nap.
If possible, drive with a buddy and take turns driving. Avoid alcohol. Be careful of taking prescription or over the counter medications that may cause drowsiness. Try to avoid driving between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. — the time you’re most likely to fall asleep. Caffeine helps keep you alert, but its effects wear off after a few hours.
Have You Been Injured by a Drowsy Truck Driver?
Have you been injured in an accident involving an 18 wheeler, semi-truck, tractor-trailer truck or other large commercial vehicle? Do you suspect the accident resulted because the truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel? In order to collect compensation for your damages, you must first be able to prove that the driver was negligent, and proof that the driver was drowsy or asleep when the accident happened may prove such negligence.
Dinsmore & Sandelmann are Manhattan Beach truck accident attorneys with the knowledge, skills and resources to conduct a thorough investigation of your accident to uncover the evidence needed to support your claim after a truck accident. This includes reviewing the accident scene, reading the police reports, examining the truck driver’s log — which will reveal how long the driver had been on the road before the accident, as well as the trucking company’s employee records and the trucking company’s maintenance logs. Call Dinsmore & Sandelmann today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation. The sooner we get started working on your case, the better your chances of obtaining the maximum compensation for your injuries.