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Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

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Posted By Legal Team | November 3 2023 | Truck Accidents

Americans depend on the goods and services brought to them by large commercial trucks and the freight industry. Unfortunately, our experienced personal injury lawyers in Atlanta have seen these large, heavy trucks pose a serious danger to motorists in smaller vehicles during an accident. States like Georgia with busy metro areas including Atlanta and Valdosta become thriving hubs for the trucking industry, leading to congested roadways and an increased risk to vulnerable motorists of a catastrophic accident with a large truck. 

Truck driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of commercial truck accidents. Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drowsy driving poses a significant crash risk, accounting for six percent of all traffic accidents and 21% of crash fatalities. The NHTSA also estimates that driver fatigue causes around 40% of commercial truck accidents.

Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

Despite limits placed on truck driving hours by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck driver fatigue and related accidents remain a significant problem as Americans increase their reliance on online retailers. Property-carrying truck drivers may only drive for 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty. These limits are intended to allow drivers to get adequate sleep between driving shifts, but in spite of these stringent limits, driver fatigue still plays a prominent role in truck accidents due to the following reasons:

  • Trucking companies pressure drivers to increase driving time due to tight deadlines
  • A trucker’s inaccurate or untruthful reporting/logging of driving times
  • Monotony on the road due to long driving hours
  • Night driving, which causes increased melatonin production and greater risks of drowsiness
  • Undiagnosed sleep disorders in truck drivers (studies reveal that undiagnosed sleep apnea in truck drivers makes them twice as likely to cause an accident)
  • Drivers engaging in other activities during their off-duty hours rather than getting adequate sleep
  • Rotating shift schedules that commonly cause sleeping problems and a lack of adequate resting periods between shift changes

Studies show that remaining awake for 18 hours causes cognitive impairment in drivers similar to operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, which is above the legal limit for DUI.

Types of Truck Driver Accidents Commonly Caused by Driver Fatigue

Truck accidents are often catastrophic, due to the large size and weight of commercial carriers. Jackknife accidents caused by unbalanced loads, tire blowouts, and defective truck parts all contribute to the high number of commercial truck accidents. Drowsy driving causes particularly deadly truck accidents including the following accident types:

  • Rear-end collisions caused by a dozing driver who hits a slowing or stopped front vehicle at full speed
  • Head-on collisions due to a drowsy truck driver drifting into a lane of oncoming traffic
  • T-bone or side-impact accidents due to dozing drivers failing to stop at intersections

Some innovative companies are working on producing technology such as eye-to-face tracking systems for truck cabs that detect a dozing driver and activate alarms and vibrations to awaken them. However, it may take years before these technologies are widely available and implemented.

Truck Driver Liability in Fatigue-Related Accidents

When injuries occur in a commercial truck accident, Atlanta truck accident attorneys have handled cases in which the individual driver or the trucking company is at fault and bears liability in cases of drowsy driving causing an accident. The trucking company has direct liability if they caused or allowed a driver to work beyond their limited hours to meet unreasonable deadlines or if they failed to implement protocols to prevent drivers from inaccurately or falsely logging their driving hours. 

When a truck driver or negligent trucking company contributes to an accident caused by fatigued driving, they are responsible for damages including the accident victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering. Some negligence-related truck accidents result in wrongful death lawsuits to compensate surviving family members for their loss.

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