Driving any vehicle while fatigued can be extremely dangerous. Fatigue has many of the same effects as being drunk. It reduces your field of vision, it slows your reaction time, and it impairs your judgment. Then, of course, there is the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.
Are you picturing someone nodding off in their commuter car as they finish the last leg of their drive home? Now picture an 18-wheeler that weighs nearly 40 tons barreling down the highway at 70mph – with a driver who isn’t prepared to stop for the backup ahead.
Fatigue is a Leading Cause of Truck Accidents
Government data show that fatigue is among the leading causes of truck accidents. In fact, by many accounts, fatigue is the single leading cause of truck accident injuries and fatalities. According to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, “Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year and driver fatigue is a leading factor.” The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that fatigue is a contributing factor in 30 to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents.
Why are so many truck drivers getting drowsy and falling asleep behind the wheel? Their work schedules certainly play a leading role. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) current trucking regulations, truckers can driver up to 70 hours per week as long as they take a 34-hour “restart” between shifts. We also know that some trucking companies not only pressure their drivers to work longer hours, but are also seeking to have the FMCSA relax its regulations so that their drivers can legally spend more time behind the wheel.
Two “Hidden” Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Along with the dangers listed above, fatigue has two “hidden” dangers that make it a particularly risky form of negligent driving. These are:
- Fatigue can sneak up quickly; and,
- Without adequate rest, fatigue leads to chronic fatigue.
In the words of Secretary Foxx, “One of the most dangerous elements of fatigue is how quickly it can sneak up on vehicle operators . . . [T]ruck drivers (like most people) often can’t assess their own fatigue levels accurately and are therefore unaware that their performance has degraded.”
In other words, truck drivers typically do not realize that they are too tired to drive until it is too late.
Once a person becomes fatigued, their body needs rest in order to reset to normal levels and avoid the risk of suddenly becoming drowsy. Not just rest, but adequate rest. Truck drivers who do not get adequate rest can experience chronic fatigue – a condition that leads to loss of sleep and a dangerous cycle of continuously driving in a state of impairment.
Have You Been Injured or Lost a Loved One in a Palm Beach County Truck Accident?
At Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers, we provide experienced, aggressive legal representation for individuals and families whose lives have been changed by truck accidents in Palm Beach County. For a free consultation how I can help you Demand More® for your losses, call me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally at (561) 983-4395 or request an appointment online today.