Truck drivers face a lot of pressure in their work. With constant deadlines to meet, drivers often feel the stress to arrive at their destination on time despite the corners they may have to cut to get there. The fact that long-haul commercial truck drivers are often paid by the mile gives them a financial incentive to push themselves to drive longer than they should, which sacrifices safety and health because they end up exhausted and fatigued behind the wheel. When commercial truck drivers push their schedules and sacrifice sleep, they are driving while deprived of the sleep they need to function safely. The loss of just one to two hours of sleep each night on a regular basis can lead to chronic sleepiness, which can contribute to traffic crashes; sleep deprivation reduces a driver’s reaction time, and it impairs judgement and decision-making capability.
Fatigue can contribute to other causes of truck accidents
Sleepiness can become a compounding factor in other things that contribute to truck accidents such as drug or alcohol use and speeding. If a truck driver is sleepy, and then they drink alcohol, or take drugs before they drive, this can significantly increase the risk that they will get into a crash.
The best remedy for a sleepy driver is to get some sleep. Opening the window to let cool air into the vehicle or playing loud music will not cure sleepiness. People tend to have difficulty accurately assessing their own fatigue levels, and they are often unaware of how much their fatigue has decreased their level of driving performance.
Drowsy driving is not only a hazard. It kills. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving claimed the lives of 856 people and caused 37,000 injuries in the United States in 2014. NHTSA reports that about 83,000 traffic crashes each year can be attributed to drowsy driving. One of the challenges with assessing drowsy driving statistics is that they are often underreported. There is no test to determine if a driver’s sleepiness might have caused them to fall asleep at the wheel and cause a crash. In one of the more famous fatal drowsy driving cases in recent history, the driver of the truck that struck the vehicle that actor and comedian Tracey Morgan and his friends were traveling in, had been awake for the 28 hours leading up to the crash, and had worked for about 14 at the time of the accident. Morgan suffered life-threatening injury and his friend, James McNair was killed in the crash.
Characteristics of drowsy driving crashes
One of the ways that investigators can infer that sleepiness on the part of the driver played a role in the crash is that it has some of the following characteristics according to the NHTSA:
- The problem occurs during late night/ early morning or midafternoon.
- 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.
Federal regulations for truck drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has revised the hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers to help make sure that they are getting enough rest. Drivers must take a 30-minute rest period within the first 8 hours of their shift to allow them to stay more alert on the highway. There is also a 34-hour rest period required once every seven days, which must include two rest periods between 1:00am and 5:00 am. These changes limit commercial drivers to a 70-hour work week rather than the 82-hour week that was permitted under the old rules. The fines for violating the hours of service rules have increased from $11,000 to $16,000 for egregious violations.
Injuries sustained in truck accidents are often devastating and can be disabling. When you have been injured in a truck crash you need the services of an experienced, Oklahoma truck accident attorney who will investigate the cause of the crash, determine who is at fault and pursue compensation for your injuries.
Stipe Law Firm has been Southeast Oklahoma’s trusted source for legal counsel for the injured for more than 60 years. We help truck and auto accident victims get the compensation they deserve when they have been injured. You are encouraged to call (918) 505-7741 or contact us to make an appointment for a case review at our firm in McAlester, where we work with clients throughout the state of Oklahoma.