In recent years, drowsy or fatigued driving among commercial truck operators has emerged as a pressing concern, with significant repercussions for road safety. In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a staggering toll, estimating that drowsy driving led to more than 91,000 traffic accidents, resulting in 800 tragic fatalities and over 50,000 injuries.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has disclosed that driver fatigue is a contributing factor in approximately 13% of all major commercial truck crashes. These statistics underscore the unfortunate relationship between driver fatigue and road accidents. If you or someone you love was injured in a drowsy driving truck accident, you should get legal representation from an experienced truck accident attorney to recover compensation.
Correlation Between Truck Driver Fatigue and Road Accidents in Virginia
Truck driver fatigue causes more accidents for several reasons, all of which are interconnected and heighten the risk of crashes:
Impaired Alertness and Concentration
Fatigue leads to a decrease in a truck driver’s alertness and concentration. A fatigued truck driver may struggle to maintain focus on the road, increasing the likelihood of missing important cues, such as traffic signs, lane changes, or the actions of other vehicles.
Slower Reaction Time
When a driver is fatigued, their reaction time to unexpected situations is significantly slower. In the event of sudden braking, road hazards, or erratic behavior by other drivers, a fatigued truck driver may not respond quickly enough to prevent an accident.
Fatigue can lead to microsleeps, which are very brief episodes of sleep that last just a few seconds. During microsleep, a driver is essentially unconscious, making it extremely dangerous when operating a large commercial vehicle.
Drifting and Lane Departures
Fatigued drivers are more likely to drift between lanes or depart from their lane unintentionally. These behaviors can result in sideswipes or collisions with other vehicles.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue is a widespread issue in the United States. These are a few common causes of driver fatigue in Virginia:
- Long Hours: Many truck drivers work long shifts to meet tight delivery deadlines. Extended periods behind the wheel can result in exhaustion.
- Inadequate Rest: Some drivers struggle to get sufficient rest between shifts due to the nature of their schedules.
- Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are prevalent among truck drivers, further contributing to fatigue.
- Substance Use and Abuse: The use of stimulants to stay awake and the abuse of substances like alcohol and drugs can exacerbate fatigue issues and impair a driver’s ability to stay alert.
- Monotonous Driving Conditions: Long stretches of highway and monotonous driving conditions can induce boredom and mental fatigue, reducing a driver’s alertness.
FMCSA Regulations to Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue on Virginia Roads
Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations
The HOS regulations set limits on the number of hours a commercial truck driver can operate a vehicle and dictate mandatory rest breaks. Key components of HOS regulations include:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: Truck drivers are allowed a maximum of 14 consecutive hours on duty. Within the 14-hour window, drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving.
- Rest Breaks: Commercial truck drivers must take a 30-minute rest break during the first 8 hours of their driving shift.
- 10-Hour Off-Duty Period: Drivers are required to have 10 consecutive hours off-duty after their driving shift.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
FMCSA mandates the use of ELDs to track and record a driver’s hours of service accurately. These devices replace paper logbooks, making it more difficult for drivers and carriers to manipulate hours. ELDs improve compliance with HOS regulations.
Hours-of-Service Restart Rule
FMCSA introduced changes to the restart rule, allowing drivers to restart their workweek after taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. This rule ensures that drivers have adequate time for rest and recovery between workweeks.
Minimum Rest Requirements
FMCSA mandates that drivers have a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off-duty, including two periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., once every seven days. This helps ensure drivers have a weekly period of rest that coincides with their body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Our Attorneys Can Prove Truck Driver Fatigue Caused Your Accident
Personal injury attorneys use a variety of methods and evidence to establish the link between fatigue and the accident. Our commercial truck accident lawyers at Pack Law Group will thoroughly investigate the accident, collecting evidence such as accident reports, black box data, surveillance camera footage, witness statements, and photographs of the scene.
We will obtain and scrutinize the driver’s Hours of Service logs. Discrepancies or violations of HOS regulations, such as exceeding the allowable driving hours or failing to take mandatory rest breaks, can be a strong indicator of fatigue.
We will also consult with outside professionals, such as accident reconstruction specialists or sleep medicine experts, to bolster your injury claim. If there are suspicions of drug or alcohol use, toxicology tests may be performed on the driver to determine whether substance abuse played a role in the accident.
Our truck accident lawyers will collect the following evidence to maximize your compensation:
- Hours of Service (HOS) logs
- Electronic Logging Device (ELD) data
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Expert witness statements
- Driver’s statements
- Surveillance camera footage
- Black box data (Event Data Recorder)
- Cell phone records
- Toxicology test results
- Medical records
- Driver’s work and rest history
- Vehicle damage analysis
- Road conditions at the time of the accident
- Trucking company’s record on previous accidents or safety violations
- Sleep disorder test results
Get Strong Legal Representation to Fight for Your Rights
The reliable truck accident attorneys at the Pack Law Group are prepared to fight tirelessly on your behalf. Whether through negotiation or litigation, our lawyers will vigorously advocate for your rights to recover the largest possible financial compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Schedule your free and confidential consultation with us today. Call 540-586-7225 or write to us online.