We all know that driving when we are fatigued or sleepy can be dangerous. Our awareness and reflexes are impaired, and we often have a hard time staying awake and paying attention to the road. As dangerous as fatigued driving is, it is even more dangerous for truck drivers.
Commercial trucks are large, heavy, and are a force to be reckoned with if the driver loses control or falls asleep at the wheel. After all, large trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds, or 30-times that of passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, this is a far too frequent occurrence. Read on to learn more about the real dangers of truck driver fatigue from an Atlanta truck accident lawyer.
The Real Danger of Truck Driver Fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that driver fatigue is a factor in 13% of all truck accidents. This is especially alarming when you consider that there are laws dictating how many hours a truck driver can work before they are required to take rest or sleep breaks.
Estimates suggest that drowsy driving contributes to more than 72,000 auto accidents each year. These accidents are responsible for over 44,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates these numbers are actually higher as drowsy driving incidents may not be properly recorded.
What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?
There are many potential causes for truck driver fatigue. The most common causes that contribute to truck accidents include:
Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep is a cause of fatigue that can (and should) be avoided. State and federal laws require truck drivers to limit their hours of service. These laws require drivers to break after 11 hours of straight driving if this shift follows at least 10 hours of time off. Truck drivers are supposed to limit their hours of service to 60 hours per week, and no more than 70 hours in an eight-day period.
Many different medications can cause drowsiness. Even some over-the-counter medications can make you sleepy, even if they are listed as non-drowsy. It is important that truck drivers understand any medical conditions and medications that they take. Medications that may cause drowsiness should be avoided during peak driving hours. While no one likes driving and working with cold or flu symptoms, the reality is that this is safer than driving while on medications.
Driving Under the Influence
Consuming alcohol and some drugs (prescription and otherwise) can cause drowsiness. Alcohol especially can cause you to become sleepy, and can further impair your ability to function if you are already fatigued. Truck drivers are prohibited from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet unfortunately, many still attempt to do so.
Your overall health and wellbeing can affect how well you function while driving. It can even lead to fatigue that causes drowsiness. Studies have shown that unhealthy lifestyles, working long hours, and lack of sleep combined can increase the risk of falling asleep while driving.
Tips for Avoiding Driver Fatigue
Now that we know what causes driver fatigue, we must also consider what truck drivers can do to prevent it from happening. The FMCSA recommends the following:
- Get plenty of sleep before driving
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Take a nap if you are feeling fatigued
- Avoid medications that may make you drowsy
- Recognize the signs of drowsiness and take action
- Don’t rely on alertness tricks to stay awake
- Avoid medications or stimulants that promise to make you alert
Of course, the best thing that truck drivers can do is follow state and federal guidelines about hours of service. Drivers should also use their best judgment if they start to feel tired or fatigued. Ultimately, truck drivers are a danger to themselves and others if they drive while fatigued. Accidents caused by fatigue can be prevented, however.