There is no doubt that long-haul truck driving is dangerous and demanding work. Not only are truck drivers in charge of operating massive vehicles that have huge blind spots and long stopping distances, but they are often expected to drive alone for many hours on end.
Safely operating a big rig can be challenging even under the best circumstances. When a truck driver is tired, the task becomes immensely more difficult. Truckers make mistakes and crashes result. In fact, research shows that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving & distracted driving in some instances.
Why Are Truckers Driving While Fatigued in North Carolina?
Driving while fatigued is obviously dangerous, so why do some truckers do it? Researchers claim that this is happening for a number of different reasons. For example, the GTG Technology Group notes that tight deadlines, long hours on the road, a shortage of truck drivers, and pressure from employers all contribute to drowsy driving.
It seems that many truckers are pressured, and sometimes even required, to keep pushing on and continue driving well after fatigue sets in.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is working to combat truck driver fatigue by implementing drowsy driving laws such as the hours of service regulation. This regulation requires all property-carrying truck drivers in the United States to abide by a series of regulations including the following:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit: Truck drivers may not drive more than 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off.
- 14-Hour Limit: Drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours.
- Rest Breaks: Truck drivers (except those on a “short-haul”) cannot drive if more than eight hours have passed since they were last off duty (for a minimum of 30 minutes).
Many truckers break these regulations and continue to drive while overly fatigued. Trucking companies may direct trucker to drive beyond the hours of service limits, or they may put pressure on truckers and turn a blind eye to violations.
Some drivers falsify logs to make it appear that they got sufficient downtime to comply with hours of service rules. They may even keep separate logs – one the shows their real time and mileage, and a false one drawn up to comply with the regulations.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving in North Carolina
Apart from passing more stringent drowsy driving laws and working to change the demanding work culture that drivers are currently forced to operate in, what can individual truck drivers do to help prevent drowsy driving?
The obvious answer is simply to drive only when well rested and too stop when tired. But unfortunately, this is not always a realistic solution. Truck drivers can fight the negative effects of driving while drowsy by following the tips listed below:
- Avoid driving late at night when possible.
- Pull over and take a short nap (just 10 or 15 minutes can make a huge difference).
- Open the window and get some fresh air (only effective for a short period of time).
- Listen to loud music (only effective for a short period of time).
- Drink coffee or some other caffeinated beverage (usually effective for 30 minutes or so).
The Dangers Tired North Carolina Truckers Pose
The danger posed by tired truckers is often not fully realized by the public at large. The reality is that drowsy driving has been deemed a “critical factor” (a factor without which the accident would likely not have occurred) in a significant percentage of large truck accidents in North Carolina, according to a recent study conducted by the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This study found that fatigued driving was a critical factor in 13 percent of all accidents involving large commercial vehicles
These statistics make sense when you think about the impact that being tired has on a driver’s ability to perceive danger and react appropriately. According to Driving Risk Management’s website, drivers who are fatigued react approximately 309 milliseconds slower than drivers who are well rested.
The National Sleep Foundation has determined that driving while drowsy can have effects similar to that of alcohol on a driver’s reaction time. The National Sleep Foundation reports that:
- Being awake for 18 hours straight is comparable to having a 0.05 percent blood alcohol concentration.
- Being awake for 24 hours straight is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent.
Proving Driver Fatigue in a North Carolina Truck Wreck
Although fatigued driving is prevalent in the trucking industry, it is not safe, acceptable, or even legal. Every driver on the road is legally required to operate their vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. Driving while tired can certainly violate this duty of care.
A tired driver who negligently operates a vehicle while fatigued and causes injury to another person can generally be held liable in a court of law. The employer may also be considered negligent if it forced the driver to drive while overly fatigued.
Proving truck driver fatigue in a personal injury lawsuit can be challenging. In these cases, evidence is key, so anything that indicates that the trucker was negligently driving while fatigued could be very helpful to your case. For example, driving records that show how long the driver had been on the road could help prove fatigue and a violation of hours of service rules.
The nature of the accident may help shed light on how alert the trucker was. For example, skid marks on the road may show that they braked later than an alert driver would have. Failure to swerve may also indicate that the driver was nodding off when the crash happened.
An experienced truck accident attorney will be able to evaluate the facts of the accident in which you were injured and build a case using a variety of evidence specific to the circumstances under which you were harmed.
How Can Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., Help Me?
If you have been injured in a truck accident, the experienced personal injury lawyers of Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., are here to help. Our firm believes in a client-centered approach to practicing law. We evaluate the unique circumstances and needs of each client, and then provide legal advice accordingly.
No two cases are alike, so choose representation that will give your case the individualized attention that it deserves. To schedule a consultation with one of our truck accident attorneys and find out more about what our firm can do for you, simply give our Shelby office a call or fill out our online contact form.