When it comes to lawsuits involving truck accidents, one of the most common causes that a truck accident lawyer will come across is that the truck driver was fatigued, causing them to drive dangerously. Let’s take a look at why truck driver fatigue is such a prevalent factor in truck accidents.
How Does Fatigue Affect Your Driving?
In 2019, there were more than 5000 fatal truck accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, a drowsy truck driver was involved in 13% of those accidents. However, some studies suggest that, on average, as many as 40% of truck accidents involve a drowsy driver! So what is it about fatigue that makes it so dangerous that it has become a common cause that a truck accident lawyer will cite as the reason for a truck accident? According to research carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatigue will increase the chances of a driver falling asleep at the wheel, but even if it does not, it can still impact how they are driving.
- Reaction Times Will be Slower
- Decision-Making Ability Will be Impaired
- May Trigger Tunnel Vision
- Increases Forgetfulness
- Lapses in Concentration
- Can Result in Drifting into Other Lanes
Causes of Fatigue
Fatigue is dangerous for all drivers as it dulls your judgment and reaction times, but when you are handling a large commercial truck, it can be even more catastrophic. There are a number of reasons why a truck driver could be experiencing fatigue. Some of these reasons include:
- Not Getting Enough Rest - Truck drivers have a demanding schedule. Legally they should only be driving for a maximum number of allowable hours before resting. However, many drivers are pushed to breach those regulations, and even those who do not may still not be getting quality sleep due to their schedule and life on the road!
- Poor Hydration & Over Caffination - A lack of proper hydration can result in fatigue, and many truck drivers neglect their water intake, instead favoring energy drinks, sugary sodas, and coffee. These beverages are high in caffeine, resulting in a rollercoaster of energy highs and crashes, creating long-term fatigue and other health concerns.
- Poor Nutrition - Eating a healthy diet can play a significant role in keeping fatigue at bay. However, when truck drivers are on the road for long periods of time, this might not be an option. Many of them are getting by on fast food and gas station snacks, which contribute to a bloated, sluggish feeling.
- Long Trips - Working as a truck driver will often mean traveling long distances over a short amount of time. It can be a lonely and boring existence, and long periods of constant driving can result in drowsiness and fatigue.
- Unrealistic Expectations & Irresponsible Incentives - We touched on the number of hours drivers are allowed to drive briefly above, but to explore that in detail, it is important to note that trucking companies often put unrealistic deadlines on their drivers. This pushes them to work longer to cover more distance and meet their deadline. Some companies even offer financial incentives to drivers for delivering on time or ahead of schedule. This can encourage drivers to breach their driving allowance.
Truck Accident Lawsuits
If you have been involved in a truck accident, your truck accident lawyer will seek to show that the truck driver is at fault, perhaps due to driving while suffering from fatigue. There are a number of ways for a truck accident lawyer to prove this, but a common approach will be using data from the truck’s black box to show that the driver has exceeded their allowable hours. If this is the case and the driver claims that they were forced into this by their employers, it may also be possible to name the trucking company in the lawsuit and have them held partially liable for the accident.
In recent years, the FMCSA has reduced the hours of service regulations in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of driver fatigue. Studies show that truckers only get an average of 5 hours of sleep per night, and about 64% say they have experienced fatigue on a regular basis. Under the new regulations, truck drivers can only work for a maximum of 70 hours per week and should take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift. In some cases, it is possible to increase working hours, but only if they have 34 hours of rest time, including two whole nights. If a truck accident lawyer can prove that a truck driver is breaking these regulations, it will help to attribute blame to the truck driver.
Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice Law, Birth Injury Law, Trucking Accident Law, Personal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.bvblaw.com or call 865-637-3531.
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