The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in a recent year, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved fatigued or drowsy drivers. “These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths. But there is broad agreement across the traffic safety, sleep science, and public health communities that this underestimates the impact of drowsy driving.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers some unsettling information regarding sleep deprivation and driving.
Their studies suggest that long-term sleep deprivation can impair your driving ability, like drinking alcohol impairs your driving.
- Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05 percent.
- Being awake for at least 24 hours equals having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent, which is higher than the legal limit (0.08 percent BAC) in all states.
Truck drivers driving through Texas should know better than to drive while fatigued. In the end, a fatigued driver behind the wheel of a large, heavy truck, driving over 55 miles per hour, is a potentially lethal combination. Unfortunately, although the federal government has rules in place that require truckers to pull over at set intervals and take an extended break, many drivers of big rigs still drive while drowsy. Learn more about injury accident claims and drowsy driving from our experienced truck accident lawyers at Wyatt Law Firm, PLLC.
What Causes Fatigued Drivers?
There are many reasons drivers operate motor vehicles when drowsy, sleepy, or fatigued. Unfortunately, too many truckers are out on the roads ignoring or trying to get around the rest requirements for truckers. A lack of rest or sleep is one of many reasons truckers may be too tired to drive.
Physical health conditions may make some people unusually tired, especially those with undiagnosed sleep disorders. Stress is another condition that can make even well-rested drivers feel drowsy and sluggish. Sometimes, sleep quality can lessen due to eating patterns, caffeine intake, or even unfit sleeping environments. So, there are many varied reasons for fatigued driving.
Some major causes of fatigued drivers, according to the Sleep Foundation, include:
- Sleep Deprivation – Lack of sleep is a major cause of drowsy driving. Adults should have between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Failing to get this recommended amount of sleep hours may cause excessive daytime sleepiness, which can cause microsleeps or other dangerous driving behavior.
- Sleep Disorders – Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea cause disrupted and interrupted sleep. Many sleep disorders are undiagnosed and may cause excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Alcohol Use – Alcohol use can make drivers sleepy and impaired, altering reaction time and their decision-making, which increases the risk of dangerous driving and accidents on the road.
- Medication – Medications, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications, induce sleepiness and make drivers drowsy. Medications taken the night before may cause fatigue and grogginess the next morning.
- Time of Day – The time of day can induce sleepiness. Car crashes due to fatigued driving tend to occur between midnight and six a.m. or mid-afternoon. These are two times when sleepiness peaks.
Fatigued driving may affect any driver, but the Sleep Foundation and the CDC identify certain people who are at substantial risk for motor vehicle crashes related to drowsy driving.
Drivers who may be prone to fatigued driving include:
- Those who drive for a living, including long-haul truck drivers and bus drivers
- Those who work long hours or irregular shift work
- Those with serious sleep problems, including insomnia or other disorders, and those with undiagnosed sleep disorders
- Those who use medications that make them sleepy
- Teenagers, due to their lack of driving experience and lack of sleep.
What Kinds of Accidents Might Result from Fatigued Driving?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that car accidents due to drowsy driving often have the following characteristics:
- The vehicle usually veers off the road or highway.
- A drowsy and/or fatigued driver does little to nothing to avoid the collision.
- High speeds are often involved.
- There is significant property loss and serious injury.
- Crashes generally occur late at night, early in the morning, or mid-afternoon.
The Statistics Surrounding Drowsy Driving Crashes
NHTSA research found that drowsy driving crashes:
- Occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon. At both times of the day, people experience dips in their circadian rhythm—the human body’s internal clock that regulates sleep;
- Often involve only a single driver (and no passengers) running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking; and
- Frequently occurs on rural roads and highways.
Crash Characteristics for Fatigued Drivers
No current tests can measure sleepiness the way we can measure alcohol intoxication.
NHTSA asserts that typical crashes related to sleepiness have the following characteristics:
- The problem occurs during late night/ early morning or mid-afternoon.
- The crash is likely to be serious.
- A single vehicle leaves the roadway.
- The crash occurs on a high-speed road.
- The driver does not attempt to avoid a crash.
- The driver is alone in the vehicle.
Drowsy Truck Driving is Always Dangerous
The Sleep Foundation contends that drowsy driving significantly increases the risk of car accidents. Microsleeping, a symptom of drowsy driving, may elicit dangerous driving. Microsleeps happen when a person falls asleep for just a few seconds. This micro-style dozing makes it easy for a driver to run off the road or collide with another vehicle. When a vehicle is at high speeds, the results can be tragic.
Fatigued driving is dangerous even if the driver remains awake. Sleep deprivation may lead to mental impairment, similar to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sleep impairment slows reaction time, distracts a person from the task at hand, and makes them inattentive to their surroundings. Inadequate sleep can also lead to poor decision-making, leading to unsafe driving and risk-taking on the road.
All truck drivers should avoid drowsy driving, just like drunk driving, driving while sick, or driving under the influence of certain prescription medicines. Trucking companies also have an obligation to take steps to prevent their drivers from being on the road while fatigued, even if they have to sacrifice their profits. Unfortunately, many truckers and their companies ignore the dangers of fatigued driving so they can make their quotas and not sacrifice their profits. But at what cost?
Fatigued driving truck accidents continue to happen, and they wreak havoc for those victimized. People continue to be injured, and some even lose their lives. Anyone who suffered an injury due to a fatigued commercial driver may have legal options to pursue compensation.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver alertness was related more to “time of day” than “time on task.” People tend to be less alert at night, especially after midnight. They have also found that drowsiness may be enhanced if you have been on the road for an extended period.
- When a driver skips meals or eats at irregular times, fatigue may set in. Also, going to bed on an empty stomach or after a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. If a driver is not well rested, induced fatigue may cause slow reaction time, reduced attention, memory lapses, lack of awareness, mood changes, and reduced judgment ability. Truckers eat irregularly on the road, which may also affect their sleep, causing fatigued driving.
- The FMCSA also reported on a recent study of commercial motor vehicle drivers, which concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, long working hours, and sleeping problems were the main causes of drivers falling asleep while driving.
- Some common medicines that make people drowsy are tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines, and cold medicines.
- In another recent study, the FMCSA reported that 17 percent of commercial vehicle drivers had over-the-counter drug use at the time of a crash.
- FMCSA studies suggest that three out of every four commercial vehicle drivers have experienced at least one type of driving error due to drowsiness.
Who is Liable When a Driver is Fatigued?
In a recent year, a Texas bus driver suffering from acute sleep deficit left his lane, sending his bus careening out of control, tragically killing nine passengers and injuring 40 others. The driver overcorrected and applied the brakes abruptly, causing the bus to roll. The accident happened during rainy conditions, and the vehicle had an inoperable antilock braking system. Upon investigation, numerous other violations occurred by the bus company. Also, the highway where this accident happened had not been treated with a common pavement texture to reduce skidding. So, who was liable?
Liability is always difficult to determine. An experienced truck accident attorney will have the resources and time to prove liability in your truck accident claim. It’s important to remember that blame may be shared by many in a truck accident.
Who Can I Blame for a Truck Accident?
- You can hold both the truck driver and the company liable for an accident, especially if the driver was negligent. The company that hired the negligent driver has an obligation to hire and train dependable truck drivers.
- If the company owns the truck and it has not been maintained or does not meet safety standards, the company may blame the lack of maintenance and upkeep.
- Other entities may share liability as well. The shipper might be responsible if the truck’s cargo contributed to injuries or death.
- If weight distribution was a factor in the incident, those who packed the truck and the company they work for might also be accountable.
- Other companies involved in truck maintenance, recruiting drivers, performing drug tests, or repairing trucks may also be responsible for a truck crash.
- And finally, the truck or truck parts manufacturer can share in the blame if the incident happened due to a mechanical failure or misuse.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I’m in a Truck Accident Due to Fatigued Driving?
It will benefit you to retain legal representation if you have experienced injury or loss due to a truck accident with a fatigued driver. A truck accident lawyer will protect you from big insurance companies and trucking companies who may attempt to deny your claim or offer inadequate settlements. Big companies may try to contact you and act as if they will help when they’re trying to find ways to avoid paying costly settlements.
A trucking company may send representatives to the accident scene to collect evidence and witnesses to help prove they were not liable. Never sign any documents from the trucking company or insurance company without an attorney. You may accidentally waive your legal rights and your chance to pursue a personal injury claim.
Your attorney will defend your best interests and work to recover compensation for damages you experienced, such as:
- Ambulance fees
- Emergency room visits
- Extended hospital and treatment center stays
- Psychological issues
- Lost wages
- Future medical costs
The complicated process of a truck accident liability case is best suited for a truck accident lawyer. More than one party might share fault, depending on the specifics of a traffic incident. This means you might have to file multiple insurance claims, which is never something to handle alone.
A fatigued driver’s five-second microsleep can cause lifelong, irreparable damage to you, your passengers, and your vehicle. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to navigate this legal nightmare and put your life back on track.
Call an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today
Were you or a loved one injured in a truck accident? You deserve to receive full compensation for your injuries and losses. Losses you might seek include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
Proving liability for a fatigued driving crash is more challenging than you might think. Consult an experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney to discuss your case today. You have a limited period to file a claim, so never wait to begin the legal process by seeking a free case evaluation with a legal professional.