Drowsy Driving and Truck Accidents
America’s roads are now full of tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, and other commercial vehicles that are supporting this nation’s commerce. While no one likes sharing the road with these monster vehicles, it’s become a fact of life.
Unfortunately, the people that drive commercial trucks sometimes do so when they aren’t in the best physical or mental condition for the task. Not only do commercial truck drivers push the limits by driving on too little sleep, but one study reveals that a large percentage of drivers also suffer from sleep apnea.
When a drowsy driver is on the road and has 30,000 pounds of weight or more under their control, the results can be disastrous.
The Danger of Drowsy Driving and Truck Drivers
Driving a truck is a demanding job, and doing it with a lack of sleep makes it even more difficult. Being fully alert behind the wheel can mean the difference between stopping in time to avoid the car just ahead or causing a dangerous crash.
It’s clearly illegal and negligent behavior for a truck driver to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Studies have also found that driving while fatigued is similar to drunk driving, but people don’t seem to take it as seriously.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, fatigued driving is dangerous because it has similar effects on your body and mind as consuming alcohol. For example, staying awake for 18 straight hours can make a person drive as if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.05. While this isn’t considered legally drunk for a passenger vehicle, it is over the limit for a commercial driver in Virginia.
Both drunk and drowsy driving make paying attention to the road difficult and impact decision making. Worse, drivers in either condition are capable of nodding off while going down the road, which puts others at risk.
Truck Drivers Are Held to Strict Regulations
Because truck drivers are often away from home for days or weeks at a time, this can affect their sleep quality. Many are also under pressure to keep to an unrealistic time schedule, causing them to sleep less, speed more, and take more chances on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created strict rules regulating the number of hours a tractor-trailer driver can operate their vehicle. For example, drivers can operate up to 11 hours straight in a 14-hour period.
Some truck drivers go outside these rules to meet their deadlines. Even by staying within the rules, a truck driver can operate their vehicle 60 hours in a seven-day period or as much as 70 hours in eight days. Anyone doing this would be understandably exhausted.
Study Reveals that Many Truck Drivers Have Sleep Apnea
Another reason that many truckers have difficulty keeping their eyes open is a common sleep disorder called sleep apnea. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, as many as 28% of this nation’s truck drivers could be dealing with this condition, and the results for others on the road can be fatal.
Because of the many instances of drowsy driving accidents involving truck drivers, the FMCSA has studied the issue and created new rules. Truck drivers found to have moderate to severe sleep apnea could now be disqualified from driving.
Truck Driver Fatigue and the Use of Stimulants
Despite the regulations in place, many truck drivers still push the limits. Whether a driver is driving more than they are permitted under the law or they are battling a serious sleep disorder, some turn to stimulants to stay awake on the road. And these come with their own set of concerns.
It’s not surprising that truckers use over-the-counter stimulants, as well as prescription and illegal drugs to give them an extra boost. But, when the stimulant begins to wear off, the driver is struck with overwhelming fatigue, making them a danger to everyone else on the road.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Truck Accident Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured due to the sleep deprivation of a commercial truck driver, you have the right to pursue the responsible party for compensation. Truck accidents can be complex, since a driver, a trucking company, and other parties could be held accountable when a crash occurs.
At Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, our experienced Virginia truck crash attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience advocating for accident victims and their families throughout the Charlottesville area. We want to hear about your situation and will give you our honest opinion about how we can help your case. Contact our office now at (434) 977-7977 to schedule your free consultation.