Truck drivers have a difficult and stressful job. They drive for long hours over-the-road, and they are frequently under pressure to deliver their loads on schedule. With these types of conditions, many truckers stay on the road longer than they should, making them susceptible to fatigue, drowsy driving, and even falling asleep at the wheel.
The Drowsy Driving Problem in the U.S.
Drowsy driving is generally defined as driving with the combination of fatigue and sleepiness. This can be caused by driving without having enough sleep. But it can also happen because of alcohol, various medications, too many repetitive hours on the road, and untreated sleep disorders. Drowsiness adversely affects drivers in several ways:
- Inhibits drivers’ ability to pay attention to the road;
- Slows driver reaction time;
- Causes drivers to make poor driving decisions.
Driving while drowsy is a major problem in the United States, and it is far more widespread than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- One out of 25 drivers (18 years of age or older) report having fallen asleep at the wheel during the past 30 days;
- Drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 72,000 crashes each year, and up to 6,000 of these crashes are fatal;
- Commercial drivers (such as operators of tow trucks, 18-wheelers, and buses) and those who drive long shifts are among the groups most likely to drive while drowsy.
Drowsy Driving and Trucking Accidents
Because of their sheer weight and size, large commercial vehicles are the most dangerous vehicles that can be involved in a drowsy driving accident. Truck accidents can result in serious and catastrophic injuries and fatalities, and most often, occupants of other vehicles are the ones who suffer the most severe injuries.
According to a Harvard School of Medicine Study, nearly half of semi-truck drivers who participated in the study admitted to having drifted off while driving a long-haul route. Researchers have found that driving while drowsy produces similar affects to driving while intoxicated, and with drowsy driving so widespread among truckers, it puts countless other motorists who share the road with them in serious danger.
Why are Truckers more Susceptible to Drowsy Driving?
Sleepiness and fatigue can happen to anyone who is out driving. Truck drivers are especially at risk for driving drowsy, however, because of the nature of their job. Truckers frequently drive during overnight hours when it is easy to dose off; and as mentioned earlier, they are often under enormous pressure to deliver their cargo on time. While a typical driver who is tired can pull into a rest stop and sleep for a while, a trucker may not have that luxury, because obtaining a few hours of well-needed sleep might mean throwing your schedule way off.
To address the issue of long hours on the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hours of service guidelines that all over-the-road truckers must adhere to. For example, commercial truck drivers that carry cargo may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours being off duty. Unfortunately, these and other safety guidelines are frequently ignored by drivers who are pushed to meet deadlines and/or incentivized to deliver their cargo ahead of schedule.
When a trucker ignores government regulations and a truck accident occurs because of drowsy driving, it is important that those responsible are held fully accountable. These types of cases can be complicated, however, and it can be difficult to determine whether liability lies with the driver or the trucking company. This depends largely on the relationship between the two.
If a driver is a direct employee of a trucking company, then it is pretty clear that the employer can be held responsible. If the driver is classified as a subcontractor, however, then the case requires further investigation. There are times when a driver meets the criteria for being an employee but is misclassified as a subcontractor, so the trucking company can avoid responsibility for the driver’s actions.
Speak with a Skilled South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a trucking accident, you need an experienced attorney by your side who understands the complexities of these types of cases and what it takes to obtain a favorable result even against well-funded adversaries. At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented truck accident injury victims in South Carolina since 2000. We work closely with clients, thoroughly investigating their cases and exploring every potential legal avenue toward obtaining full compensation. For a free consultation with one of our seasoned personal injury attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.