More than half of semi-truck drivers surveyed by the Harvard School of Medicine admit to falling asleep behind the wheel—an alarming fact when you consider the deadly consequences of big-rig accidents. Drowsy driving is remarkably similar to driving while intoxicated, which means that all those tired truckers on the road could very well pose the same risks as if they were drunk.
Experts have discovered that an individual who has been awake for 17 hours or more may exhibit the same driving errors as someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.5. Sleep deprivation can cause the same loss of coordination, impaired judgement, and slowed reaction times as alcohol. This is why there have been recent increases in regulations on drowsy truck drivers on the part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Regulating Drivers to Prevent Drowsy Driving Accidents
The FMCSA has tried to limit the amount of time a driver can be on the road before they must take a mandatory rest time. Currently, drivers must stop driving for 10 hours for every 11 to 14 hours they spend behind the wheel—but that doesn’t mean that drivers are getting adequate rest. Additionally, it’s possible that drivers may modify their logs to comply with the law, while still driving long past their time limit.
Factors That Lead to Drowsy Truck Drivers
There are many factors that can cause truck drivers to become drowsy or sleep deprived behind the wheel. Here are some of the more common causes.
Many trucking companies push drivers to drive beyond their safe limits by imposing tight deadlines and even encouraging drivers to change their logs to make it seem like they are in compliance with federal regulations. Even if a driver is following regulations, they may not be able to pull off the road when they are feeling too tired to drives safely.
Long hours on the road can cause fatigue, lethargy, and dulled senses. This can leave even well-rested drivers feeling drowsy behind the wheel.
Conflicting Biological Schedules
Like all humans, truck drivers have their own biological rhythm that determines when they become sleepy. Driving at night, sleeping irregularly, and other habits of truck drivers can confuse their biological schedule or leave them behind the wheel when their body is preparing to go to sleep.
This sleep disorder is a common cause of daytime sleepiness, and studies have shown that up to 28% of all truck drivers may be living with this condition. Treating sleep apnea is an important precaution to prevent drowsy driving accidents.
Long Commutes to the Terminal
Many of us commute to our jobs, but truck drivers often commute to the terminal, only to clock in and spend another 11 hours behind the wheel. This can mean that drivers are spending anywhere from 11 hours to 24 hours awake and actively driving, depending on the length of their drive to the terminal. This was a factor in the 2014 trucking accident that injured actor Tracey Morgan and killed comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.
The Deadly Consequences of Drowsy Drivers
Truck drivers are at the wheel of a vehicle that may weigh up to 80,000 pounds, so it is critical that they are sharp, well-trained, and prepared to maneuver safely around traffic. When drivers are drowsy, however, everyone on the road around them is in grave danger. As mentioned above, drowsy driving can cause drivers to drive as if they were intoxicated, which means that drivers are making deadly errors and reacting to road hazards and traffic much more slowly than they need to react.
Trucking accidents are often deadly for other drivers and passengers. In 98% of all fatal semi-truck accidents, the deceased was in a passenger vehicle. Trucks can be many times the weight and size of the average passenger vehicle, which means that accidents are frequently catastrophic. Heavy trucks can “ride over” smaller vehicles, crushing them completely underneath the heavy semi-truck. These accidents could have been avoided, if only the driver had been awake enough to react to the brake lights of the vehicle ahead of them.
When truck drivers drive drowsy, others on the road die. It is as simple as that. Drowsy truck drivers may drive for years before they are involved in an accident, but it only takes one accident to permanently change or end someone’s life.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident caused by a drowsy driver, our team at Donati Law, PLLC, is ready to fight for you. Your catastrophic injury or wrongful death case will be handled by our experienced Memphis personal injury attorneys. With more than 100 years of collective legal experience, you can feel confident that our legal team will do everything in their power to protect your best interests and ensure your family receives the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation today to learn how we can assist your case.
Contact our firm online, or by dialing (901) 209-5500. We are ready to begin fighting for you today.