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How Dangerous is Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry?

When a massive commercial truck is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, it is often the occupants of the passenger vehicle that suffer the most catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Drowsy driving is one of the most common causes of truck accidents, and it continues to be a serious problem in the truck industry for a number of reasons, including the tight deadlines imposed on drivers. What many people – including truck drivers – do not realize is that when a motorist is awake for more than 24 consecutive hours, they may experience impairments that are similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 which is over the legal limit for truck drivers.  If you are seriously injured in a truck accident involving a drowsy driver, you are urged to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.

How Common is Drowsy Driving Among Truck Drivers?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were over 5,000 truck accidents in the United States in 2019, which is one of the highest rates of collisions in recent years. 13 percent of these collisions involved a drowsy truck driver. The following statistics show how common drowsy driving is among truck drivers:

  • Truck drivers get an average of five hours of sleep per night, which is less than the seven to nine hours recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Close to 65 percent of truck drivers experience fatigue on a regular basis.
  • Over 27 percent of truck drivers suffer from insomnia.
  • Approximately 18 percent of truck drivers reported that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
  • Certain studies suggest that drowsy driving is the cause of up to 40 percent of truck accidents.
  • Roughly half of all truck accidents involving drowsy driving occur between midnight and 8:00 a.m.

Why Is Drowsy Driving So Dangerous Among Truck Drivers?

If you have ever had a moment when you started to nod off while driving, you can imagine how potentially devastating it can be for a truck driver to nod off or fall asleep while operating a massive tractor trailer. However, as dangerous as it can be to fall asleep at the wheel of a commercial truck, drowsy driving can also increase the risk of the following:

  • Impaired ability to making good decisions
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • More likely to drift into other lanes
  • More likely to experience tunnel vision
  • Reduced coordination
  • Slower reaction times

What Are the Most Common Causes of Drowsy Driving in Truck Drivers?

Truck drivers spend long hours behind the wheel, often on highways where the scenery does not change for hours at a time, which can be physically and mentally exhausting. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of driver fatigue in the trucking industry:

  • Long hours: Despite the federal hours of service regulations that are in place, truck drivers work long hours. In fact, a truck driver may be behind the wheel for up to 11 consecutive hours before they are required to take a break. In addition, they can be on duty for up to 60 hours in a week or up to 70 hours in eight days. This makes it difficult to establish a healthy sleep pattern.
  • Pressure to meet tight deadlines: Commercial truck companies often impose very tight delivery deadlines on their drivers. Ultimately, truck drivers are paid by the mile, so the more miles they drive, the more money they earn. This pay structure can have negative consequences when drivers feel pressure to continue driving, even if they have exceeded their hours of service. Unfortunately, truck companies often pressure their drivers to continue driving beyond what is legally permissible.
  • Employer negligence: Some carriers go a step further by neglecting to explain the hours-of-service regulations, including the required rest periods. In some cases, carriers even urge their truck drivers to ignore the federal regulations so that they can continue driving and making deliveries, despite the fact that this puts the driver and other motorists on the road at serious risk.
  • Alcohol and drug use: This is a serious problem among commercial truck drivers. Truck drivers will often resort to drugs or alcohol either to help them stay awake and alert during a long shift, or to fall asleep faster or ease their stress when they are off duty.

What Are the Common Signs of Drowsy Driving?

The symptoms of drowsiness can come on gradually, and truck drivers have a responsibility to pay attention to these symptoms, take the required breaks, and get enough sleep. The following are examples of some of the most common signs of drowsiness:

  • Becoming irritable, restless, or impatient
  • Constant yawning
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Drifting into other lanes
  • Inability to keep one’s eyes open
  • Increased blinking
  • Repeated head bobbing

Who Is Liable for a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident?

If you suffer a serious injury in a drowsy driving-related truck accident, the truck driver may not be the only party that is responsible for the accident. The following parties may be held liable for the injuries and property damage caused by the accident:

  • Truck driver: If the truck driver involved in the accident knowingly violated the hours-of-service laws and was aware that he or she was driving while drowsy, he or she will likely be liable for the accident.
  • Truck company: If the truck company pressured the driver to continue driving in order to meet unreasonably strict deadlines, including forcing the driver to ignore federal hours of service laws, the truck company may be held liable for the accident and the resulting injuries.
  • Brokers: If a broker hires a truck company that fails to screen drivers for conditions that are known to cause fatigue, like sleep apnea, heart disease, and diabetes, it may be liable for a drowsy driving truck accident.

What Damages Am I Entitled to in a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident?

Truck accidents often cause massive property damage and severe, often fatal injuries. Therefore, if you are the victim of a tragic truck accident, it is crucial that you receive the financial compensation you deserve. A successful truck accident claim will ensure that you receive the following damages:

  • All medical expenses associated with the injury.
  • Future medical bills.
  • Lost income if the injury prevents you from being able to return to work for an extended period of time.
  • Loss of future earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of quality of life.

Dayton Truck Accident Lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC Represent Victims of Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents

If you suffered a serious injury in a truck accident, and the truck driver was drowsy at the time of the accident, contact the Dayton truck accident lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC at your earliest convenience. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 937-222-7477 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Dayton, Ohio, where we serve clients in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Centerville, Toledo, Youngstown, and Miamisburg.