Lack of sleep is a common cause of big rig accidents. In fact, the US Department of Transportation estimates that up to 28% of truck drivers could have sleep apnea. Additionally, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that perhaps as many as 83,000 accidents annually can be traced to drivers who actually doze off behind the wheel of their vehicles. The annual average includes almost 886 fatal crashes (2.5% of all fatal crashes), an estimates 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property damage only crashes. Now contributing those numbers to the fact that driver fatigue contributes to 40% of all truck crashes shows how dangerous it is for other drivers at night when sharing the road with sleep-deprived truck drivers. In fact, with regard to semi-truck drivers as a separate group in a study conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine-Sleep Medicine Division, nearly half have admitted to actually “drifting off” while diving a long-haul route. Driving at night is already inherently dangerous because of the limited light emulating from headlights and streetlights, adding fatigued drivers make it even more treacherous .
Hazards of a Demanding Schedule
The U.S. Department of Transportation and relevant agencies-such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)-have all stepped up regulations in response to a growing concern or semi-truck accidents caused by drowsy drivers. The long driving hours, night time driving, irregular hours and early start times, tight scheduling, insufficient time for recovery, doing the non-driving physical work of loading and unloading as well as poor driving conditions lend to truck accidents . Out of all, the demanding schedule of a truck driver is the underlining cause of generally all the issues. The problem had become so bad that the FMCSA mandated new hours-if-service regulation to prevent driver fatigue. The new hours of service include:
- Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours;
- Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for a consecutive 34 hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most—from 1-5am and;
- Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
- 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.
Companies who do not follow these rules will be fined $11,000 per offense and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Even so, with personally tracked and logged hours, companies slip through the cracks, pressuring their drivers to make deliveries that are in fast-demand.
Hazards of the Dark Road at Night
Driving at night hinders our ability to see adequately. Even with the help of road lights and headlights, the dark black road blends in with the surroundings and all drives have to go off of are street signs and road markings. No matter how well-lit the road is, it will never be the same to the daylight. Lights from cars or street lights are pointed-light sources that create shadows. These shadows can hide dangers or create false perceptions of hazards. In addition, headlights from other vehicles create glare, temporarily blinding drivers. The reflection of light from uneven surfaces such as the back of cars or signs can also add to a driver’s ability to properly gauge speed and distance. Dirty windshields with marks reflect light from all sources, throwing off the driver’s perception–even at higher fields of sight, such as a truck driver.
Apart from the actual environment in which we all drive in a night, the toll of hours of driving on part of truck drivers for their companies is hard on the body. The rules states above, while better than older regulations, still allow truckers to drive for as many as 11 hours a day. In the 11th hour of driving, at the end of a long week, a trucker is completely wiped out, not matter how experienced he or she is. Reaction time is slowed, vision is blurred and memory is hindered. This leads to single vehicle crashes, roll-overs and semi-truck vs passenger vehicle accidents where if there is a death, the person being killed is more likely to be the smaller passenger vehicle .
Dolman Law Group
Unfortunately, the demanding schedules set forth by companies lead many truck drivers to develop sleep apnea or fatigued sleep issues that cause accidents. When truck crashes happen at night, the likely cause is due to a sleepy truck driver who’s trying to make deliveries on time or who’s trying to make it home.
If you have been injured by a fatigued driver at night–or truly at any time of the day—you need to take advantage of your legal recourses to make sure that trucking companies and drivers know that it is intolerable for them to danger your life for their profit. Therefore, it is essential to gain experienced truck accident attorneys to properly advise you on what to do next. Truck companies can be a hassle to deal with, knowing fair well that their drivers carrying a large risk when driving at all hours of the day and night. At Dolman Law Group, we will be there for you to help you get the compensation you deserve. Please call us today at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765