Did you know that drowsy driving is responsible for 72,000 collisions, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths each year? Sadly, the numbers don’t lie. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 2013 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is a major problem. While anyone who hasn’t had enough sleep has the potential to cause a drowsy driving crash, commercial truck drivers are some of the most likely people to drive sleepy.
Drowsy Truck Drivers Are Far Too Common
The truth of the matter is that drowsy driving is a huge problem for truck drivers. Whether truckers choose to push on while they are sleepy or their trucking companies make them clock a certain number of hours or miles before they can get some rest, driving a big rig while drowsy can have deadly consequences. This is why the federal government implemented an hours-of-service law to reduce truck driver fatigue.
The hours-of-service law, enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a safety rule designed to limit the amount of time truck drivers are at the wheel—ensuring truckers get the proper sleep to reduce the amount of drowsy driving truck accidents. Although this federal law is in place, many truck drivers and trucking companies fail to comply with the hours-of-service rule. Thus, there are many tired truck drivers on our roads.
Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers who are frequently blinking, yawning, or nodding off for brief moments behind the wheel have an increased chance of crashing. This is because driving while sleepy impairs a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and vision. When a truck driver has blurred vision, dulled reactions, and makes poor decisions at the wheel due to tiredness, the results can be catastrophic or even deadly.
How Do Truck Drivers Get So Tired?
Drivers sometimes suffer from dangerous levels of sleep deprivation—often without realizing it. For example:
- The inverted hours and lack of sleep that truck drivers experience during night driving contribute to obesity, which studies have linked to sleep apnea. This means that the little sleep that drivers do get will be not deep enough for proper rest.
- Long periods of driving can cause back problems, muscle spasms, irritability, and eyestrain. Truckers may be tempted to ignore these symptoms in order to make their shipping deadlines, rather than take much-needed rest stops to stretch and refresh themselves.
- Some highway routes are ill-equipped for truck traffic, offering no open rest stops, or even truck-sized parking spaces, so the driver can pull off the road. In these cases, drowsy truckers may keep driving for hours, intending to stop “in the next few miles.”
Identifying a Drowsy Driver
Not only are truck drivers at risk of crashing and suffering injuries, but driver fatigue has been the cause of many serious injuries and fatalities for drivers and passengers sharing the road with these large commercial trucks. No one should ever drive drowsy, let alone a truck driver who is steering an 18-wheeler that can weigh 80,000 pounds. The reality, however, is that there are many tired truck drivers on our roads. Because of this, it is important that all drivers are aware of the following drowsy driver signs:
- Tailgating or driving too close to nearby vehicles
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Drifting into another lane without signaling
- Swerving and going back and forth across the rumble strips
Avoiding a Drowsy Truck Driver
Unfortunately, you can’t control another driver’s behavior. So what can you do to avoid a truck accident in Virginia?
- If a truck is showing erratic behavior—swerving, drifting, sudden braking—call 911.
- If you can read it safely, get the number posted on the back of the vehicle.
- Always give trucks a wide berth, particularly in the late night to early hours of the morning.
- Trucking companies are responsible for their drivers’ education. This means regulatory rules and procedures, policies, and fatigue management.
- Newer trucks can be equipped with video recorders. When installed, drivers should both use and know how to operate them.
Speak With a Virginia Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been injured by a negligent truck driver or simply want more information, contact our Fairfax office today to speak with an experienced attorney. Call us at (703) 721-4233.
While it can be difficult to determine if a truck driver in the lane next to you is driving drowsy, we hope these tips will help you avoid large commercial trucks that can put you or your loved ones in danger. To help us reduce unnecessary drowsy driving truck accidents, injuries, and fatalities, please share this article with those you know on your favorite social media site.