There are many things that can cause truck accidents, but one of the most common – and most dangerous – is drowsy driving.
Drowsy driving happens when a driver is sleepy or fatigued, which can occur due to not sleeping enough or something else such as an untreated sleep disorder, medications, drinking alcohol or shift work.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 fatalities in 2013. However, they believe these numbers are underestimated and that drowsy driving causes up to 6,000 fatal accidents per year.
The nature of trucking jobs – long hours, night shifts, tight deadlines – makes these drivers prone to drowsy driving. When a commercial vehicle gets involved in an accident, it is more likely to be catastrophic or fatal.
Even with regulations, truck drivers drive while drowsy
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created an hours of service schedule that states commercial vehicle drivers carrying cargo can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours in a shift, and only after they have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. A truck driver in general cannot drive longer than 14 consecutive hours.
Even with these regulations, pressure from transportation employers can lead employees to make unsafe decisions and ignore the regulations. Pushing themselves like this can lead to drowsy driving that causes an accident.
How can I tell if a truck driver is drowsy?
There are a few signs drowsy drivers exhibit, and three of them can be spotted by another driver:
- The truck drifts from their lane, especially more than once
- The truck hits a rumble strip (which may or may not be visible depending on the time of day and the road’s lighting) on the side of the road
- The truck makes sudden actions, like swerving for an exit quickly (indicating they missed it and were too tired to notice)
Beyond that, there is not much else passenger vehicle drivers can do, other than to be sure they never get behind the wheel drowsy either. You can do this by following these guidelines:
- Get enough sleep, which is seven hours for adults and eight hours for teens, and stick to a sleep schedule
- Avoid alcohol or medications that make you sleepy, and make sure you read the label and talk to your pharmacist before taking medication and driving.
- If you exhibit signs of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or sleepiness during the day, talk to a physician about treatment options
We can all make the roads safer by monitoring our own behaviors. If you or a loved one is still involved in an accident caused by a drowsy truck driver, there may be opportunities for seeking damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your situation and discuss this possibility with you.