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How Does Fatigue Affect Truck Accidents?

According to the Large Truck Causation Study, data from commercial truck accidents revealed that 13% of all drivers were fatigued at the time they crashed. Unfortunately, truck accidents can have deadly consequences. This is because there is such a large size difference between commercial trucks and other motor vehicles.

Truckers and trucking companies are often struggling to meet deadlines. Especially during the pandemic, there are surging demands and labor shortages. However, cutting corners to deliver goods often creates safety issues. According to data, 1.5% of fatal crashes involving large trucks were due to the driver being either asleep or fatigued. Furthermore, 13 percent of all crashes that involved an injury were also due to the driver being asleep or fatigued.

What Causes Trucker Fatigue?

There are several reasons why truck drivers may experience fatigue. They might regularly work long shifts and may be more likely to drive while tired. One of the most obvious reasons that drivers get drowsy behind the wheel is having an inadequate amount of sleep.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains strict hours of service limits that dictate how long truck drivers may be behind the wheel before they must take time off or take a break. Truck drivers who are carrying property can drive a maximum of 11 hours after having ten consecutive hours off duty. They must also take a 30-minute break when they’ve driven eight continuous hours without interruption. Drivers carrying passengers are allowed to drive a maximum of ten hours after taking eight consecutive hours off duty.

While lack of sleep is an obvious reason truck drivers become fatigued, other elements that can affect drowsiness and fatigue include:

Illness: After being ill, the body requires rest and sleep. Even the common cold can leave a driver desperately fatigued. Unfortunately, labor shortages and tight schedules may leave a driver unable to take the necessary rest breaks required during the day.

Medication: Medications a driver may use to combat the common cold may also increase fatigue. Other prescription drugs can have the side effect of inducing sleepiness.

Inebriation: Long solitary hours behind the wheel, fighting boredom, loneliness, and fatigue can increase the risk that a trucker will turn to drugs or alcohol. In one study, 30 percent confessed to using amphetamines, 12.5 percent tested positive for alcohol, and 50 percent told the researchers they used alcohol while driving. Another literature review of several studies found that 91 percent admitted to drinking alcohol while on the job.

Working unusual hours: Truckers who are used to working the day shift and who are suddenly required to work at night may become easily fatigued by the hours. According to the FMCSA, alertness behind the wheel is related more to the time of the day than it is to the time a driver stays on task. In other words, more people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. Drowsiness triggered by working unusual times during the day can be more of a problem for drivers who have been on the road for extended periods of time.

How Fatigue Affects Driving

Sleep deprivation and fatigue can impact a driver in several ways. As the fatigue level rises, so does the potential risk of causing an accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving is a major problem and usually happens if the driver has not had enough sleep.

This can also occur with medications, inebriation, shift work, or untreated sleep disorders. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three factors are commonly associated with drowsy driving crashes.

  • They occur more frequently between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • They often involve a single driver running off the road without any evidence of braking
  • They more frequently occur on rural roads and highways

Fatigued drivers will have an inability to focus on the task at hand. Sitting behind the wheel for hours can increase the level of drowsiness. This can cause a driver to drift into another lane or fail to notice changing traffic signals.

Fatigue also affects a driver’s reflexes. They react more slowly to changing conditions.

Finally, fatigue and drowsiness impair your decision-making skills. This can cause a trucker to make poor judgment calls that may ultimately place another person’s life in danger.

Steps You Should Take After an Accident with a Truck

After an accident with a truck, it’s important to take several steps that can help protect your rights. You may have no idea whether the driver who hit you suffered from fatigue. The steps that you take after a truck accident will help protect your finances and your legal rights.

Report the accident: It is important that you report the accident immediately to the police. Law enforcement will take down information about the truck, driver, and trucking company. Never leave the scene of an accident unless it is to receive immediate medical care.

Get immediate medical attention: Large trucks increase the risk of having a devastating physical injury in a crash. Medical treatment can help your most urgent injuries and those that are less severe. Since adrenaline can mask the pain from many injuries in the immediate aftermath of the accident, it is essential that you see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Medical treatment will also help you document your injuries, and medical records can provide proof of the time when they occurred. The trucking company’s insurance adjuster may suggest that you suffered your injuries at another time. Appropriate treatment also includes your doctor’s recommendations, treated protocols, therapy, lab tests, and rehabilitation.

Notify insurance companies: Notify your insurance company of the circumstances of the accident. Keep in mind that all insurance companies have their own best interest in mind for paying out claims. Don’t talk with an insurance adjuster without having your lawyer present.

Work with your truck accident attorney: After any accident in which you suffer serious injury, contact your attorney as soon as possible. Trucking companies have experienced lawyers to protect their rights. To get the compensation you need, you should also be represented by an attorney with experience in truck accidents.

We Are Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Who Will Fight for Your Rights

If you or a loved one was involved in a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, call the attorneys at Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC. We can investigate your case and determine whether the driver was fatigued or otherwise negligent. Our legal team has experience successfully negotiating with insurance companies and litigating cases in court. Call our office today at 337-800-8800 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

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