How often driver fatigue causes truck accidents is difficult to determine. It can be challenging to determine if a driver was drowsy unless they self-report this information. This may make the reported numbers significantly lower than in reality.
What do the Statistics Say About Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), about 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers interviewed for the long-term study were fatigued when their accident occurred. This number might be significantly higher if federal laws did not stipulate the hours commercial truck drivers can remain behind the wheel and how often they must rest.
This number also could represent only a fraction of the drivers guilty of drowsy driving or falling asleep behind the wheel, though. This would not include those who:
- Died from their injuries
- Were unaware fatigue affected their driving abilities
- Did not tell the truth about how tired they were feeling before the crash
How does Fatigue Affect a Driver’s Abilities?
According to the Sleep Foundation, fatigue affects a driver’s ability in many ways. It can significantly affect:
- Attention and focus
- Judgment and decision-making abilities
- Reaction time
When drivers become extremely tired, they may behave in many of the same ways as drunk drivers, including:
- Weaving between lanes, driving off the road, or veering into another lane
- Difficulty maintaining a proper speed
- Problems with keeping an appropriate following distance
- Slowed reaction times
Truck drivers with even mild sleep deprivation are at risk of operating a vehicle with impaired driving inability.
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What Regulations Work to Fight Driver Fatigue?
To combat the effects of fatigue on commercial truck drivers, federal laws known as hours-of-service regulations are in place. According to the FMCSA, the rest requirements for driver transporting cargo include:
- Driving only up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours off
- A workday of up to 14 hours is permissible, although only 11 can be behind the wheel
- Must rest for at least 30 minutes at least every eight hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth
- Can only work up to 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days
The regulations are different for bus drivers and others transporting passengers.
What Increases the Risk of a Fatigue-Related Truck Accident?
While the hours-of-service regulations limit how often and how long commercial truck drivers work, other risks can greatly increase the risk of a drowsy driving crash. These include:
Certain Times of Day (or Night)
Many commercial truck drivers prefer to drive overnight because there is significantly less vehicle traffic on the road. However, the risk of a drowsy driving crash increases between midnight and 6 a.m.
How Long Since Sleeping
Sleep deprivation can affect the way your brain and body work, including your memory, cognitive abilities, and reaction time. Just because a driver is behind the wheel does not mean they got enough sleep.
Sleep Apnea and Other Disorders
Several sleep disorders cause sufferers to sleep poorly, even though they are in bed and believe they are resting. Truckers should be tested for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders to ensure they get adequate, quality rest.
When someone frequently works at night, they may become accustomed to those hours. This often happens to those who work the third shift. However, truckers may sometimes drive during the day one week and at night the next. They do not always have regular schedules or routes, which can contribute to fatigue.
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What Should I do If I Suffered Injuries in a South Carolina Truck Accident?
If you believe a fatigued or drowsy truck driver caused your South Carolina crash, you may want to discuss your case with a truck accident lawyer who knows how to develop a claim based on this type of collision.
Truck accident claims involve vicarious liability and other unique rules and circumstances. This makes having an attorney who manages these cases regularly a priority.
While most cases settle, your attorney should protect your right to sue the trucking company and driver. You usually have up to three years to sue per S.C. Ann. § 15-3-530. Some cases may have less time, though.
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At Hammack Law Firm, our truck accident team is here for you. We will assess your legal options during a complimentary case review and fight for the justice you deserve. We will hold the liable parties responsible based on the facts of your case. Let us take on the trucking company on your behalf. We will not charge any attorney’s fees unless we recover compensation for you.
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