How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?

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How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?

Several studies show that people who drive for a living have accident liability between 29%-50% higher than private drivers. It isn’t necessarily because they drive more miles — they still have higher liability rates even when you compare them by age, gender and annual driving miles.

Why Do Professional Drivers Have More Accidents?


Why, then, do professional drivers tend to have more accidents than private drivers? Researchers came up with a few theories:

  • They are driving trucks, vans and other bigger and bulkier vehicles than cars.
  • They don’t own the vehicle, so they don’t feel the need to be as careful as they would with their own cars.
  • They may have to drive very early in the morning, late at night, or in adverse weather conditions.

These are all very plausible reasons and probably affect most drivers at times. There is one factor, though, that significantly affects those who drive for a living, and numerous studies prove it. That factor is fatigue.

How Drivers Become Fatigued

When you spend hours behind the wheel, driving becomes tiresome. The road looks like one long and unending stretch, and the driver can become fatigued from the unchanging scenery. Scientists studying the brain waves of tired drivers labeled it “monotonous road alignment.” They also learned that driving fatigue accounts for 35%-45% of all crashes.

What Is Driving Fatigue?


The CDC describes fatigue as the condition that results when you don’t get enough sleep hours or high quality of rest. Their estimates show that 37% of working people don’t get the recommended amount of seven hours or more of sleep. That’s a lot of sleepy workers behind the wheel.

Causes of Fatigue

The body becomes fatigued when you:

  • Have a sleep shortage for several days in a row
  • Stay awake for too many consecutive hours
  • Are awake at an unnatural time of day, such as early morning
  • Have long spans of inactivity or monotonous tasks, such as driving for extended periods

People who do shift work, have extended shifts, or drive long hours for a living are at a greater risk for fatigue.

Symptoms of Fatigue

Drivers who are experiencing fatigue may:

  • Drift from their lane
  • Nod off at the wheel
  • Make poor decisions while on the road
  • Have microsleeps — periods of sleep lasting from a fraction of a second to 30 seconds
  • Experience tunnel vision — losing touch with what’s going on around them
  • React slowly to pedestrians, other cars, traffic signals and road conditions
  • Forget what happened the last few miles of driving

These symptoms are obvious hazards for the driver, but they are certainly dangerous for those who share the road with them.

What Happens When Drivers Are Fatigued?


When a fatigued driver is behind the wheel of a big truck, a lot of bad things can happen. If they nod off, drift from their lane, or run a traffic light, an accident can happen in seconds.

Statistics of Driving While Fatigued

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were fatigued at the time of an accident. In the general population, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that as many as 20% of fatal crashes result from driver fatigue.

Most people understand the dangers of driving while impaired. Did you know, however, that after being awake for 17 hours, the body’s impairment level is comparable to a blood alcohol content of 0.05? That BAC is illegal for drivers in all 50 states. (Commercial drivers have a lower legal BAC of 0.04.) After 24 hours of being awake, the impairment level doubles to equal a BAC of 0.10.

Do Truck Drivers Work While Fatigued?


It’s hard to imagine anyone being OK with a truck driver getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. However, it’s highly likely that many drivers are on the road while fatigued. One group of researchers who followed truck drivers during periods of five 10-hour trips and four 13-hour trips found that they slept an average of only five hours per night during the work periods.

Regulations for Hours of Driving Time

The FMCSA has regulations regarding the length of time drivers are allowed to be on the road. They determine how many hours drivers can consecutively work before taking a break. These laws strive to prevent accidents by keeping truck drivers from overdoing it.

The regulations contribute to the safety of everyone on the road by encouraging drivers to get adequate rest between work shifts. However, no one can truly mandate how much sleep a driver gets. Staying vigilant of truck drivers is imperative when you share the road with them.

How To Spot a Fatigued Driver

It’s difficult to know if the truck driver next to you on the highway is driving while fatigued. However, there are some signs you can watch for, including:

  • Rapid changes in driving speed
  • Wandering in and out of lanes
  • Drifting to the shoulder of the road
  • Disregarding or failing to brake at traffic signs and signals
  • Appearing out of control

If you notice a truck driving erratically, get out of the way. Find a safer traffic lane or take a detour. You can report unsafe driving by calling 911.

What Should You Do After an Accident With a Fatigued Truck Driver?


Hopefully, you will never have an accident involving a fatigued truck driver. If you do, there are a few steps to take immediately, providing you are not too injured.

Report the Accident

Call the police to report the accident. Answer the responding officer’s questions to the best of your ability.

Seek Medical Attention

It’s a good idea to see a doctor even if you don’t believe you were injured. You may have medical problems related to the accident you aren’t aware of until you get an exam.

Take Note of the Scene

Jot down a description of the accident scene. Are there adverse weather conditions or road hazards? Do you have witnesses? What do you remember about the moments before the crash? Take photos if you are able.

Get Information

Get the truck driver’s company, contact information and license number. Get the names and numbers of any witnesses.

Don’t Admit Fault

Do not discuss fault with anyone. An attorney can advise you on what to do next.

Consult an Attorney

After a crash, you may want someone to help you with your claim so that you can focus on taking care of yourself. A truck accident lawyer can help you in a few ways:

  • Getting the settlement you deserve for injuries, vehicle damage, and pain and suffering
  • Talking to witnesses to get more in-depth information about your claim
  • Dealing with the trucking firm’s insurance company
  • Filing paperwork on your behalf

The staff at Mike Morse Law Firm can help you get the highest settlement you deserve.

Call Mike Morse Law Firm After a Truck Accident


You don’t have to deal with the aftermath of a truck accident by yourself. If you or a loved one was in a crash with a fatigued truck driver, contact us at Mike Morse Law Firm. You can begin with a free case evaluation to determine what steps you should take next. Call us, visit our website or stop by our office to see how we can assist you.

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