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When truck drivers snooze, bad things happen

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2018 | Blog |

A Connecticut truck driver died on Interstate 91 late last month. Troopers say a Peterbilt tractor-trailer slammed into the back of another tractor-trailer that had slowed because of traffic from a line painting project. The Peterbilt then hit four other cars before crashing through a guardrail. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Three other motorists suffered minor injuries.

It is not yet known why the truck hadn’t slowed down with the other traffic, but it could have been due to truck driver fatigue.


A leading cause of accidents in America

It’s been estimated that up to 20 percent of all large truck accidents are due to drowsy or fatigued driving. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that annually around 100,000 accidents can be attributed to drivers who doze off behind the wheel of their vehicles. In addition, they estimate that as many as 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries may be caused by drowsy drivers.

Mandated breaks for commercial drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted a set of regulations that govern the way truck drivers do their jobs. These regulations were developed specifically to ensure their safety and the safety of everyone sharing the road with them. The regulations require that:

  • Once a driver is at work, the driver has a maximum work/driving combination of 14 hours before needing to go off duty for 10 hours.
  • During the driver’s 14-hour shift, they can drive a maximum of 11 hours.
  • A truck driver has a maximum work/driving combination of 60 hours in a 7 day period.

USA Today documents fatigue regulation abuse

A recent story from the USA Today Network analyzed more than 30 million electronic timestamps for trucks taken from the gates at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles from 2013 to 2016. What they found was a rampant disregard for federal rules regarding fatigue. The investigation discovered that trucks serving these two ports, on average, operated without this break 470 times a day. Those trucks were involved in at least 189 crashes within 24 hours of the law-breaking overtime driving.

How fatigue affects a driver

According to the National Safety Council, driving while drowsy is similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Driving on 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to driving with a blood-alcohol concentration at the U.S. legal limit, .08. In short, drowsiness:

  • Decreases driver’s ability to pay attention to the road.
  • Slows reaction time for sudden braking or steering.
  • Impairs a driver’s ability to make good decisions.

After the accident

If you or a loved one are the victims of a truck accident, life can turn catastrophic in the blink of an eye—or with the nod of a driver’s head. An experienced accident attorney can investigate the accident to accurately determine liability. Your attorney can help recover financial compensation for your lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as other losses and damages.