How Does Fatigue Affect Truck Accidents?
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2021 at 3:22 pm
Although many people believe driving while tired isn’t that dangerous, it can result in a catastrophic accident. Fatigue interferes with a driver’s ability to react appropriately to hazards and maneuver their vehicles around others safely. It also affects coordination, judgment, vision, and decision-making.
When a truck driver operates a commercial truck while fatigued, it increases the risk of collisions that can result in severe injuries and death. That’s because a truck is much more significant in size and weight than a standard passenger car. When the two crash into each other, the smaller vehicle occupants are likely to suffer greater harm than the truck driver.
The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Whether it’s due to a lack of sleep, a busy schedule, or feeling overworked, fatigue affects mental and physical faculties. The driver can experience various symptoms that can prevent them from remaining focused on their surroundings and making good decisions.
The most common symptoms of fatigued driving include:
- Altered sensory perception
- Becoming distracted easily
- Blurry vision
- Heavy eyelids
- Lack of coordination
- Poor judgment
- Slower reaction time
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to notice hazards and dangerous conditions
- Inability to understand traffic signals and signs
- Impaired muscle control
- Poor motor skills
Truck drivers have the challenging job of maneuvering 80,000-pound trucks along narrow roads, around other vehicles, and over poorly maintained roads. This task requires focused attention at all times. If a driver exhibits any of these symptoms, they can’t fully control their vehicle, placing the people around them in danger.
Common Reasons Truck Drivers Experience Fatigue
Truck drivers can spend almost half of a 24-hour day on the road. This, combined with the pressures of staying on schedule, can lead to fatigue. Although federal regulations are in place to prevent tired drivers from getting behind the wheel of commercial trucks, some can’t avoid the responsibilities of daily life that can tire them.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces various standards regarding the number of hours truck drivers can spend on the road and the number of required breaks. The hours of service regulations include:
- Eleven-hour driving limit after ten consecutive off-duty hours
- A thirty-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without at least a thirty-minute interruption
- Prohibition from driving past the fourteenth consecutive on-duty hour
- Maximum of sixty hours of driving in seven consecutive days and seventy hours of driving in eight consecutive days
These regulations could combat fatigue. However, the FMCSA can’t control how truck drivers spend their time when they’re not at work. Some people have families to care for, second jobs, and other tasks they need to tend to. It might be impossible for trucking employees to get the sleep they need every night to feel refreshed for their shifts. Despite the hours of service standards, many show up to work tired and lack the physical or mental capacity to handle the long hours they’re required to spend on the road.
Typically, truck drivers don’t have a salary or hourly wage. The trucking companies pay them by the number of miles they drive. That means they might exceed the maximum driving limits to make more money. Their employers could also put pressure on them to drive for more extended periods to meet delivery deadlines.
Another common reason for tired truck drivers is substance abuse. Some truckers take illicit drugs to give them the energy they need to stay awake during their shifts. Unfortunately, adverse side effects, including fatigue, prevent them from operating the truck safely. Even over-the-counter medicines can cause a range of side effects that disrupt physical or mental faculties.
What to Do After an Accident Involving a Fatigued Truck Driver
Proving that driver fatigue caused an accident is an uphill battle. You might have seen the trucker swerving around on the road or noticed that the driver’s eyes seemed hazy when you spoke to them after the collision. However, you don’t have physical evidence of this. It’s your word against theirs, and trucking companies often hire experienced and aggressive defense lawyers to avoid liability for accidents.
If you believe the truck driver was at fault for the accident, inform the investigating police officer at the scene. Tell them any symptoms you noticed and the events leading up to the crash. If the officer includes what you say in the police report, it could serve as helpful evidence during the case.
Go to the hospital immediately after leaving the crash site. You need sufficient evidence to show someone else’s actions resulted in the collision and your injuries. Be sure to follow up with any doctors the initial physician recommends. It’s also a good idea to maintain copies of all medical records, bills, and other documentation.
Hire a lawyer to assist you with your case. Whether you choose to file an insurance claim or lawsuit, you need an experienced legal team on your side to guide you through the complicated process. Your lawyer can handle the investigation, evidence collection, and other necessary tasks on your behalf.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C.
At Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., our award-winning lawyers are ready to help you pursue justice and compensation following a truck accident. You will receive personalized attention and services until the end of your case.
If you sustained an injury in a truck accident that was caused by a fatigued truck driver, do not hesitate to call us at (770) 205-8827. We can meet with you during a free consultation to determine whether you have a case to pursue.