Was Drowsy Driving the Cause of Your Collision With a Truck?
Truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are tasked with a difficult job: moving heavy freight as economically as possible (as quickly as possible), while still doing so in a safe manner. Unfortunately, these two objectives (speed and safety) do not mesh well together. In fact, they are contrary to one another. The faster the commercial vehicle makes it to its destination, the less safe everyone else on the roads becomes. There are two ways in which commercial trucks can get to a destination quicker, and therefore increase their company’s profit, and their own paycheck. The first is to drive over the speed limit. The second is to drive more hours than the driver is legally allowed to do, which puts them at great risk of drowsy driving, or falling asleep at the wheel.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Service of Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that drowsy commercial driving, fatigued commercial driving, and falling asleep while driving commercial vehicles causes 755 fatalities and 19,705 injuries every year. As such, the FMCSA has created the following rules for truck drivers:
- Maximum 11-hour driving shift after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours;
- Mandatory 10 consecutive hours off duty within a 24-hour cycle;
- Two additional hours off within each 14-hour work period within a 24-hour cycle; and
- Weekends (or whenever the driver has their two day “weekend) must include a minimum rest period of two consecutive periods from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
These federal regulations are, unfortunately, commonly broken by truck drivers and trucking companies. Many drive over the legal hourly driving limit, and compensate with caffeine, narcotics, television or movies, and prescription drugs to stay awake and stave off fatigue and boredom. These methods tend to make the driver even more dangerous.
Just as bad, the FMCSA recently downgraded a number of safety rules that prevent fatigued driving, including increasing the number of hours a driver can perform during adverse driving conditions, and essentially reducing the number of break hours by two—now, non-driving on-duty time, such as refueling or performing other non driving duties, counts toward the driver’s required break time.
Study Finds That Truck Drivers Get Less Than Five Hours of Sleep a Night
A study that analyzes the sleep of 20 truck drivers found that during a five-day trip, during which the participants drove 10-hour shifts starting at the same time each day, the truck drivers were only getting 4.78 hours of electrophysiologically verified sleep per day, while spending an average of 5.18 hours in bed per day. This is far below the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, and falls within the dangerous level of fatigued driving.
How Does Fatigued Driving or Drowsy Driving Affect a Driver’s Ability to Function on the Road?
Fatigued driving is more dangerous than most people suspect, especially when operating a heavy, difficult-to-driver vehicle like an 18-wheeler. According to the Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving is akin to drunk driving. Drowsy or fatigued driving:
- Impairs a driver’s ability to make good decisions;
- Loss of motor control;
- Increases reaction time; and
- Reduces driver’s attention.
Signs of fatigued driving include tailgating, swerving within a lane, swerving from one lane to the next, braking too late, driving well under or over the speed limit, going the wrong way down the road, running red lights or stop signs, failure to yield right of way, changing lanes without using a turn signal or checking that the lane is clear, and driving partially or fully on the shoulder of the road.
Compensation for Victims
Victims of large truck and commercial vehicle collisions often end up suffering life-altering injuries. As such, receiving full compensation is vital. Victims of fatigued truck drivers can sue for the following damages:
- Medical expenses;
- Total projected medical costs;
- Lost wages;
- Lost earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of joy of life;
- Emotional distress;
- Property damage;
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement; and
Our Experienced Naples Fatigued Truck Driver Collision Attorneys Can Help
If you were injured in a truck collision, one of the first things to investigate is the truck driving logs and the electronic on-board recorder. These may reveal that the driver had surpassed the legal hourly limits within their 24 hour or seven-day-week schedule. Our Naples personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Marc L. Shapiro, P.A. are here to help. Contact us today at 239-649-8050 to schedule your free consultation.