Drowsy Driving Truck Accident Lawyers
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A fully loaded tractor-trailer combination can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, which is almost 30 times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. Due to the danger that commercial vehicles pose to other motorists, trucking companies and over-the-road truck drivers are strictly regulated by both state and federal laws. The accidents that often result from drowsy truck drivers can lead to individuals incurring large costs ranging from property damage, medical expenses, lost productivity, as well as the psychological pain and suffering associated with an injury or death.
If the negligence of a drowsy truck driver caused your accident or if you are dealing with an insurance company after being injured in a wreck with a fatigued driver, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced truck accident lawyers.
Regulations to Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue
When a commercial truck passes you on the highway, it may surprise you to know that the driver may have already been driving for upwards of 10 hours. Long-haul commercial vehicle operators are known to keep long hours to meet deadlines and deliver their freight on time. These long-haul drivers, while trying to maximize their own profits, often put the safety of other drivers at risk when they become fatigued or drowsy and choose to continue to operate their vehicles.
Falling asleep at the wheel, and other symptoms of driver fatigue, are a major cause of hundreds of semi-truck crashes and motor vehicle injuries each year. Most truck drivers are paid premiums for making deliveries ahead of schedule; therefore, many truckers become motivated to ignore federal rules and stay behind the wheel, when they are tired. To combat these incentives, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented federal driving regulations for commercial truck operators. To reduce the number of hours that truck drivers spend behind the wheel, when they are incapable of safely operating the vehicle, some of the truck driver fatigue regulations the FMCSA established include:
Generally, drivers of commercial vehicles carrying products or freight are prohibited from driving more than 11 hours, after 10 consecutive hours off duty without a break. The maximum amount of time a truck driver could operate their vehicle is for 14 hours, but if they choose to drive for 14 hours in one day, they can only do so if it was preceded by 10 consecutive hours of rest or off-duty time. However, the FMSCA has allowed drivers to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to two hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of eight cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes (e.g. on-duty not driving, off-duty, resting in the sleeper berth, or any combination of these taken consecutively).
Rest Periods (Time Between Driving Days)
Drivers may split their required 10-hour off-duty period, as long as one off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least two hours long and the other involves at least seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. All sleeper berth pairings MUST add up to at least 10 hours. When used together, neither time period counts against the maximum 14-hour driving window.
Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
After a trucker has completed a 70-hour workweek, he or she must rest for at least 34 hours before starting their next workweek. This mandatory resting period must include at least two periods of sleep at night, between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
Read More: FMCSA Facts
Truck Driver Fatigue Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every year about 100,000 police-reports cite drowsy driving as a cause or leading cause in the accidents. These crashes result in more than 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. The real number may be much higher; however, it can be difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash. The NHTSA has determined that fatigued or drowsy driving accounts for approximately 2.4% of all motor vehicle accidents and 2.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the United States for any given year. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 13% of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
PREVENTING TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE
Fatigue and drowsiness are known risks within the truck-driving community. The majority of truck driving manuals address the issue as one that should be managed rather than one that should be out-right avoided. Some recent technological developments are helping truck drivers avoid the issue of driving fatigue before it becomes a fatal accident. Two examples of anti-fatigue devices that can be installed in the vehicle include, equipment that tracks the pupils of drivers and assesses the frequency and duration of eyelid closures, as well as lane tracking devices that alert the driver if they are not maintaining a steady course in their respective lanes. Another option for anti-fatigue technology involves wearable devices that drivers can use to measure the quality of a night’s sleep by recording body movement and ambient noise.
There are also traditional methods for preventing drowsy driving accidents, recommended by FMCSA, which include:
1. Getting Enough Sleep Before Getting Behind the Wheel
This means not only getting a minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep per night but also avoiding, if possible, driving while your body is naturally drowsy, such as between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. With inadequate sleep, the drowsiness experienced during these natural “lulls” can be even stronger and may have a greater adverse effect on a driver’s performance and alertness.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
The fuel that we put into our bodies affects how our brains work throughout the day. Your brain needs fuel to operate at full capacity, therefore, skipping meals or eating at irregular times may lead to fatigue.
3. Take a Nap or Rest Period
Allowing your body to take regular rest periods throughout the day can not only increase productivity but can also increase awareness. This is particularly true of long-haul truck drivers. Sleep studies have shown that naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally should last up to 45 minutes to receive the maximum benefits. Additionally, the napper should allow at least 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before resuming their drive.
4. Avoid Medication that Causes Drowsiness
Most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that the consumer should not operate vehicles or heavy machinery during use. These warnings apply equally to truck drivers and passenger vehicle operators. Using these substances and operating a vehicle could also result in the driver receiving a DUI/DWI.
5. Recognize When You Should Stop Driving
Pay attention to the most common indicators of drowsiness, such as frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision. If the driver is experiencing these symptoms it is time for them to take a nap or extended break period before getting behind the wheel.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
Perhaps the most effective way to prevent collisions with drowsy or fatigued drivers is to drive defensively. Defensive driving is a form of driving that aims to reduce collisions through driver awareness. A defensive driver tries to anticipate dangerous situations that arise, such as adverse road conditions and other drivers’ mistakes or incapacitation. Some important signs that indicate that a driver should start acting defensively because a fellow motorist may be driving while fatigued include:
- Driving on the shoulder or outside of the boundary lines of the road
- Nearly colliding with stationary objects or other vehicles
- Brake slapping or sudden stops
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
- Delayed response to traffic signals
- Driving more than 10 mph below the speed limits
Our DROWSY DRIVING Truck Accident Attorneys may Help
At Zinda Law Group, our drowsy driving truck accident lawyers have helped many accident survivors and their families seek compensation for their injuries after a devastating accident. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for any associated medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and all the other costs your accident has caused.
Our firm believes that fatigued driving accident victims should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. This is why we offer 100% free consultations. Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we win your case.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drowsy driving accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with one of our trucking accident attorneys.