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How Does Fatigue Affect Truck Accidents?

truck accident fatigueTruckers and trucking companies are held to high standards of safety when they’re operating. Unfortunately, truckers and their companies do not always meet these standards, which require truckers to be well-rested, and this can lead to accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), about 13 percent of accidents involving commercial motor vehicle drivers in a recent year involved fatigue on the part of the commercial driver.

Fatigue has an impact on driver performance, which can increase the chances of an accident. It is the responsibility of truckers and trucking companies to ensure that drivers are getting adequate rest, are not being overworked, and are taking the appropriate rest and meal breaks. Behaviors that can lead to fatigue for truck drivers include:

  • Not getting enough sleep: Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to be fully alert during the day. Circadian rhythms dictate that 12 am – 6 am and 2 pm – 4 pm are the times of the day in which drivers are likely to be drowsy. Studies by the FMSCA have found that driver drowsiness was highly correlated to times of day, so truckers should avoid driving at night if possible. Additionally, taking naps during the afternoon can be more effective than drinking coffee, and can keep alertness levels up.
  • Working too much: Trucking companies and their drivers are required to keep service logs that help ensure that the drivers are not working too much in a given period of time. However, truckers are often under extreme pressure to meet deadlines and may end up taking longer shifts to deliver their cargo sooner. Having to be alert for shifts as long as 11 hours can lead to fatigue if truckers do not take regular breaks.
  • Taking medication that leads to drowsiness: While driving, truckers should not take medications that cause drowsiness. Medications that cause drowsiness often have a warning label stating that users should not drive or operate machinery for a certain period of time after taking the medication. Over-the-counter medications, such as sleeping pills, allergy medicines, and cold medicines can also lead to drowsiness behind the wheel. According to a 2008 study by the FMCSA, about 17 percent of truckers were using over-the-counter medications at the time of a crash.
  • Not knowing the signs of drowsiness: It is the responsibility of truckers to know themselves and understand what makes them drowsy. If you are yawning frequently, have heavy eyes, blurred vision, or have difficulty concentrating, it is probably time to take a break. Being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit in most states. Truckers who do not get adequate sleep and work longer shifts without stopping are more prone to drowsiness.
  • Not eating a balanced diet: In addition to sleep, good nutrition is essential to long hours on the road. Truckers should avoid going to bed on an empty stomach or eating a very heavy meal just before bedtime. Truckers should stop for regular meals, and try to maintain as close to a normal meal schedule as possible to avoid disruptions to their sleep. Truckers should also not rely on stimulants such as coffee to keep them awake, as excessive caffeine intake can lead to insomnia and nervousness, neither of which is conducive to getting a good night’s rest.

If you or a loved one was involved in an accident with a large truck, some of these contributing factors to fatigue can be used as evidence in a claim. For example, truck drivers’ travel logs can be used to show the driver exceeded the legal limit on driving hours. Additionally, trucks often have black box recorders similar to those found in airplanes that can be used to understand what might have been going on in the cab prior to a crash. A qualified personal injury lawyer will know how to secure these pieces of evidence to determine whether fatigue was a contributing factor to the truck accident.

Contact Sampson Law Firm Today

If you have been involved in an accident involving a large truck that wasn’t your fault, you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible to help you with your claim. Driver fatigue is a leading factor in truck accidents, and gathering evidence of fatigue from trucking companies is an important part of your claim that a lawyer can assist you with. Call the Louisville personal injury lawyers of Sampson Law Firm today at (502) 584-5050 for a free initial consultation.