Drowsy driving is a leading cause of accidents in the U.S., resulting in thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths every year. Unfortunately, the problem is even worse for long-haul truck drivers, who can lose control of their rigs if they doze off for even a few seconds while driving. Although the federal government has enacted hours of service laws that force truckers to take breaks and get a full night’s sleep between shifts, truck drivers are still at high risk of causing drowsy driving accidents.
6 Reasons Truckers Continue to Drive Drowsy
Many people don’t realize just how much exhaustion can impact their ability to drive. Studies have shown that driving while overtired causes similar symptoms to driving while intoxicated, including slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, coordination problems, and distorted vision—and the longer a person has been awake, the more his ability to drive safely will suffer.
Truckers are overwhelmingly likely to drive while tired due to a number of factors, including:
- Highway hypnosis. Truckers spend the majority of their time driving on highways rather than city streets, which do not require them to stay alert for red lights or sudden stops. Driving on long stretches of road at a consistent speed has been shown to have a hypnotic effect on a driver, dulling the senses and increasing fatigue. This effect is even worse when truckers drive after dark, since the body is naturally more inclined to sleep during the night.
- Hours-of-service violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places strict limits on the number of hours a trucker can drive and the amount of time he or she must spend off duty before getting back behind the wheel. Unfortunately, some truckers are forced to subvert these rules due to pressure from their employers, skipping rest breaks in order to meet deadlines and earn more money.
- Medical reasons. Driving long hours places a physical toll on the body, causing back pain, chronic fatigue, body aches, and other medical problems. According to FMCSA, an estimated one-third of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes poor rest and extreme daytime fatigue. Although the condition can be easily corrected with treatment, truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea can be suspended from driving if their condition is severe. As a result, many drivers fail to undergo treatment or diagnosis for sleep apnea or other medical conditions that could prevent them from driving.
- Drugs and depressants. Truckers may rely on medications to cope with stress, depression, pain, and undiagnosed medical conditions. A driver who take uppers on long-haul drives to stay awake is trading one risk for another, while a driver who takes sleeping pills in order to get more rest on his off hours may be groggy or disoriented during his morning drive.
- Lack of off-duty time. It is not unusual for truckers to spend weeks on the road, return home for a weekend, and then go back out on the road. As a result, they have to juggle spending time with their families, household problems, and other issues that they can only attend to in person, making the short time they spend at home far from restful.
- No control over schedules. Federal regulations requiring rest breaks at certain points and a continuous eight-hour period of sleep do not always fit perfectly into a driver’s day. Many drivers have little to no control over how long it will take to load and unload, how long they will sit in traffic, or how long they will sit at a pick-up before a delivery arrives. In many cases, it is not possible to sleep during these waiting periods, forcing them to sacrifice both rest and drive time during delays.
If you have been injured by a drowsy trucker, the commercial carrier and the driver could be liable for your compensation as well as owe federal fines for breaking the law. Our attorneys can determine who is liable for your medical bills, lost income, permanent disability, or wrongful death in the family at no cost to you. Contact GriffithLaw today for a free evaluation of your case or order a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.