How Dangerous Are Fatigued Truck Drivers?

Drowsy driving trucker in Alabama

Truck driver fatigue is a major contributor to truck accidents, which are incredibly dangerous. Federal regulations allow truck drivers to drive up to 11 hours at a time with breaks. However, studies have indicated that many truck drivers regularly violate these regulations and work longer than allowed. 

Driving while fatigued is a safety hazard, and, unfortunately, many truck drivers are not getting enough rest. Drowsy truck drivers have slower reaction times – comparable to that of driving drunk. Sleep deprivation has been found to impact reaction time as much as alcohol.

How Many Truck Accidents Happen Each Year Due to Fatigue or Drowsiness?

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.

In the study “Long Hours and Fatigue: A Survey of Tractor-Trailer Drivers,” published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, researchers conducted interviews with 1,249 commercial truck drivers at truck stops and inspection stations in four different states. They found that 19% of the truck drivers reported having fallen asleep at the wheel one or more times during the prior month. Two-thirds said they had under-reported their actual hours of work in their logbook during the previous year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drowsy driving was responsible for close to 91,000 car accidents in a single recent year. Those crashes left approximately 50,000 people injured and 800 dead. NHTSA says these statistics likely underestimate the effects of drowsy driving.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, truck drivers get less sleep than what is required for alertness while driving. The study found they averaged only 5.18 hours in bed per day and 4.78 hours of actual sleep per day. For most people, the ideal amount of sleep is around 7 hours per day.

Laws About Drowsy Driving or Driving While Sick

Alabama enacted a resolution that designates Nov. 19 each year as Drowsy Driver Awareness Day.

While Alabama does not have laws specific to driving while drowsy or sick, driving while under the influence of alcohol is against the law, and driving while sleepy can be very similar to driving while intoxicated. For instance, remaining awake for 18 hours has a similar effect on driving as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Being awake for 24 hours straight is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10.

Drunk driving is having a BAC at or above 0.08, or 0.04 when operating a commercial vehicle. For those under the age of 21, the limit is only 0.02.

What Truckers Can Do to Help Prevent Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents

There are several ways to combat the effects of sleep deprivation.

Here are some steps truckers can take to help prevent drowsy driving accidents:

  • Get plenty of sleep. Studies show that about seven hours of sleep per night is optimal for most people.
  • Time management is critical. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you need to drive a truck for extra hours to get back on schedule.
  • Schedule regular stops. Take a short break from driving about every 100 miles.

 

  • Taking naps can help alleviate drowsiness.

 

  • Caffeine can be a quick fix. Drinking coffee or an energy drink can boost your short-term alertness.
  • Eating before and during your trip can give you energy and increase alertness.
  • See a doctor if you are having trouble sleeping or if you have any symptoms of sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Resources for Drivers with Sleep Disorders

The following are helpful resources for truck drivers with sleep disorders:

Contact an Alabama Truck Accident Lawyer

Truck accidents caused by fatigue are often catastrophic, resulting in severe, life-altering injuries. The skilled and compassionate Alabama truck accident lawyers at Stokes Stemle, LLC understand what you are dealing with.

We are standing by 24/7, ready to fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

We have offices in Montgomery, Auburn, and Dothan, and serve the entire River Region. Call us now to schedule a free and confidential consultation.