Dangers and Regulations Surrounding Sleep Deprivation and Truck Driver Fatigue

Federal and state laws forbid truckers from driving while sleep-deprived, but that doesn’t stop some of them from doing so anyway. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, sleep deprivation and truck driver fatigue are factors in up to 40% of all semi-truck accidents.

Truckers drivers work long shifts, and many transport cargo at all hours of the day and night. Drivers who lack adequate sleep contribute to hundreds of crashes on California roads each year.

Drowsy Truck Drivers Can Cause Life-Threatening Accidents

Driving while tired is often just as dangerous as driving drunk. Sleepy truckers have trouble staying alert and may even doze off behind the wheel. A driver only needs to fall asleep for a few seconds to cause a serious accident that hurts or kills dozens of people.

Tired drivers can drift into other lanes and sideswipe cars without even knowing they’ve hit someone. A simple jerk of the wheel can make a trailer topple over, crushing you and other victims below several tons of thick steel. Trucks carrying flammable materials may burst into flames, leaving you with lifelong pain, scarring, and disfigurement.

Even if you survive such an accident, you’ll likely face hefty treatment bills and a long road to recovery. Severe injuries can even render you disabled and potentially prevent you from being able to support yourself.

Regulations for Driving Hours and Mandated Breaks

The government recognizes the danger of allowing tired truckers to stay on the road. To curb this problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted regulations designed to prevent drowsy driver accidents.

The FMCSA requires truckers to rest for 10 hours after every 14-hour shift. During this shift, truckers can’t drive for more than 11 hours. Truckers also can’t drive more than 60 hours per seven-day period or more than 70 hours per eight-day period.

Despite these regulations, some truckers continue to drive while sleep-deprived. Companies may allow or even encourage drivers to make deliveries no matter the cost. Drivers might push themselves to work while tired out of fear that they’ll lose their job if they don’t.

How Trucking Companies Can Minimize Drowsy Driving Accidents

Drowsy driving accidents can leave drivers and trucking companies open to civil and criminal penalties. Trucking companies can avoid this by prioritizing safe driving over all else.

Encourage Breaks

A trucking company should never force truckers to drive longer than is legally allowed. Companies should also not insinuate that commercial drivers will face punishment or penalties for failing to make deliveries on time. Such language only encourages truckers to stay on the road instead of taking a much-needed break.

Use Digital Recordkeeping

Modern trucks often feature digital logbooks that keep track of a trucker’s driving hours and breaks. But some companies use older trucks that don’t have such technology, which means it’s up to drivers to report their hours and breaks themselves.

Truckers can easily make errors in their logs or even fabricate breaks entirely. By removing the element of human error with digital logs, trucking companies can ensure more accurate reporting and encourage truckers to only work when well-rested.

Support Truckers With Sleep Apnea

Many truck drivers struggle with sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing to stop for a few seconds during sleep. Sufferers may not awaken when this happens, but they certainly feel the effects later on.

People with this condition may live with excessive daytime sleepiness and constantly feel tired without knowing why. In addition, they may have trouble concentrating and focusing on the road.

Sleep apnea sufferers often fight through tiredness because they believe they should be well-rested after hours of sleep. But a lack of high-quality sleep is nearly as dangerous as not sleeping at all.

Trucking companies can put programs in place to support those with sleep apnea. These programs might encourage drivers to see a doctor for testing or take more frequent breaks.

The Law Can Hold Sleep-Deprived Truckers Liable for Accidents

Truckers who cause an accident because they drove while tired can face serious consequences. They may lose their job and their commercial driver’s license (CDL), preventing them from finding other work in the industry.

Government agencies may also issue penalties. If the accident killed someone, they could be subject to criminal prosecution and several years in jail.

If you sustained injuries because of a tired truck driver’s negligence, it’s possible to hold them responsible through a personal injury lawsuit. 

Proving Negligence in Cases Involving Sleep Deprivation and Truck Driver Fatigue

To recover damages in your case, you’ll need to prove that the truck driver acted negligently due to fatigue. This can be hard to prove because drivers will seldom admit they felt sleepy to you or the police. And unlike drunk driving, the police may not be able to tell that the trucker was driving while fatigued.

A skilled truck accident lawyer can hunt for clues to help prove that the driver acted negligently due to lack of sleep. Your lawyer will investigate the accident report and trucking logs to look for things such as erratic driving and failure to brake before impact.

Your lawyer might also consult an accident reconstructionist to determine how the crash happened. For instance, if this reconstructionist finds that the truck’s tires left no skid marks, this can indicate that the driver didn’t try to avoid the crash because they’d fallen asleep at the wheel.

Potential Damages From a Drowsy Driver Truck Accident

If your truck accident attorney can prove that a truck driver’s tiredness caused your accident, you can potentially recover compensation for medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages, and emotional trauma. Compensation can also cover home modifications, such as a wheelchair ramp and stairlift, if your accident left you paralyzed and unable to walk.

Reach Out to Us for Help With Your Case Today

Cases involving sleep deprivation and truck driver fatigue can be incredibly complex. Proving liability in such a case requires an experienced attorney who can recognize the signs of truck driver fatigue.

If a fatigued truck driver injured you, the law is on your side. Contact Khalil Law Group for a free consultation at (714) 617-7870.

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