Fatigued drivers can have the same driving impairments as a person would who was operating their vehicle while intoxicated. The drowsiness fatigued drivers experience can slow their reaction times, impair their judgment, and make it feel impossible to remain focused and attentive to what is going on around them. Fatigued drivers behind the wheel of normal-sized vehicles can be dangerous, but consider the damage that a fatigued driver can cause behind the wheel of a fully loaded tractor-trailer or semi-truck. That is almost 80,000 pounds driving down the road and in the hands of a less-than-capable driver. To say that this is a scary prospect would be a severe understatement.
Despite the drastic devastation a fatigued truck driver can cause on the road, it is far from an uncommon situation. In fact, the Federal Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ranks fatigue among the top 10 causes of large truck collisions. Those victims of accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers may be left with severe and lifelong injuries that completely change their lives.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Lack of sleep is usually the root cause of truck driver fatigue and drowsiness. There are other factors, however, which can also cause fatigue or exacerbate the symptoms of fatigue. For starters, the often repetitive act of driving a vehicle over an extended period of time, particularly on the highway and in nonvarying scenery can have a very lulling effect. This can make fatigue symptoms much worse.
Additionally, the time of day a truck driver operates their vehicle can contribute to truck driver fatigue. Did you know that there are “naturally drowsy” times of the day for people? It’s true. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that the body becomes naturally fatigued during certain times of the day. Driving between the hours of 12 am and 6 am as well as between the hours of 2 pm and 4 pm makes it more likely for a driver to feel drowsy, regardless of the amount of sleep they have gotten.
Certain types of medication can also create feelings of drowsiness or increase feelings of fatigue. Check the labels of medications, prescription, and over-the-counter, that you may be taking. You may see that the directions include a suggestion for avoiding the operation of heavy machinery after taking a dose. This would include avoiding operating vehicles, including large trucks.
Being overworked can also cause fatigue regardless of sleep patterns. Truck drivers can be behind the wheel for uninterrupted hours at a time. This can take a toll on the body and make it fatigued. Additionally, untreated sleep disorders can take a toll on the body and prevent a person from getting the amount of quality sleep their body needs to function optimally. With an untreated sleep disorder, a person may be getting enough sleep time, but not the deep sleep their body needs to fully recharge. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will drive fatigued.
Regulations Guarding Against Truck Driver Fatigue
With truck drivers being on the road so often, and the fact that they are tasked with safely transporting heavy loads, it is an obvious concern that there is a prevalence of truck driver fatigue. Federal regulations have been put in place to specifically help address and prevent the problem. Truck drivers, for instance, are restricted to driving for only a limited amount of time. They are required to take breaks of specified lengths. Specifically, they must take a minimum of 30 minutes break time for every eight hours behind the wheel. There are also mandated lengths of time between working consecutive days.
Drivers are legally obligated to comply with these hour restrictions unless they have been waived by the government in the event of a national emergency. In reality, however, there are likely a significant number of drivers who bend or outright break these rules in order to cover more ground in less time. We also know, considering the factors discussed above, that the amount of time working may increase the chances of fatigued driving, but there are also other contributing things that can increase the risk of driving while fatigued as well.
Damage Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
When a truck driver is behind the wheel while fatigued, it can prevent them from being able to safely operate their oversized vehicle. This is especially true considering the fact that these large trucks require even more skill to operate than your average-sized passenger vehicle. The weight and size of semi-trucks and tractor-trailers mean that a fatigued driver could all too easily sway between lanes. They could drift off-road or into other lanes of traffic. They may even unconsciously place more pressure on the gas pedal leading to sudden acceleration. All of these dangerous driving behaviors could lead to a devastating crash.
Sometimes, fatigue drivers will dose off or drift in and out of sleep. When this happens, the truck may careen off-road entirely. The rig may collide with other vehicles, with trees, with a concrete median, with metal guardrails, or make an impact with a number of other nearby roadway hazards. Should the driver jerk awake, they may very well overreact by jerking the steering wheel suddenly. With a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, this could cause the entire truck to tail out into a spin, jackknife, or rollover.
North Dakota Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Attorneys
An accident caused by a fatigued truck driver is likely to cause serious injury to multiple people involved. If you have been injured in such an accident, do not delay in reaching out to our trusted team of personal injury attorneys at Pringle & Herigstad for assistance enforcing your legal rights to be fairly compensated for the harm you have sustained. Contact us today.