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What Are the Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue?

In 2022, there were 166,833 truck accidents across the country, resulting in over 75,000 injuries. When such truck accidents occur, they are often catastrophic to both person and property. Add to this driver fatigue, and the risk of being involved in one escalates. In a job that includes long hours on the road, feeling drowsy while driving may be a common occurrence, but it comes with several dangers for you and your family. If you have been injured in a truck driving accident and suspect that fatigue played a role, a Virginia truck accident lawyer with Montagna Law is here to help find who is liable for your damages and will pursue your case for deserved compensation.

How Common is Truck Driver Fatigue?

A large truck crash causation study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that over 65% of truck drivers admit that they drive while drowsy. Fatigue and drowsy driving are way too common today and threaten the health and safety of the public. Companies encourage on-time delivery of goods and often measure one’s job performance on whether they accomplish this goal on a regular basis. In turn, drivers feel the pressure to keep going even when fatigue starts to set in, and they stay on the roadways longer than they should. Drowsy driving is indeed preventable, yet attitudes today consider it just part of a busy life.

Why is Truck Driver Fatigue So Dangerous?

Fatigue experienced by any person while operating a vehicle, whether it be a car or motorcycle, creates a dangerous situation. However, when a long-haul truck driver is fatigued and remains on the roadway, this can lead to more catastrophic damages and harm to surrounding drivers due to the massive size of the truck. Fatigue can cause drifting into other lanes and possibly hitting smaller vehicles. It can also result in poor decision-making and create slower reaction time should the driver need to correct, slow, or stop suddenly. Drivers can also temporarily nod off, slip into trancelike daydreaming, and lose focus. In other words, fatigue can affect both physical and cognitive function and result in accidents.

Why Does Truck Driver Fatigue Occur in Virginia?

Truck driver fatigue in Virginia often occurs due to long hours, irregular schedules, or a lack of good sleep. These drivers spend long, monotonous hours on the roadways, sometimes 14 hours consecutively, leading to mental and physical exhaustion. Trucking companies also encourage drivers to skip rest breaks, make up for lost time, and meet specific deadlines.

Drivers often have irregular schedules, preventing them from getting their mind and body into a normal routine. They may need to adjust meal times and sleeping habits to accommodate these schedules. Changes in sleep patterns can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm of the body and can lead to drowsiness on a grand scale.

Failing to get enough sleep plays a role in commercial truck driver fatigue as well, creating drowsiness, impaired judgment, and a higher chance of being involved in an accident. Instead of getting several hours of sleep in a row, drivers often split it up or drive straight through, planning to rest once they arrive at their final destination. Often, sleep deprivation occurs, and the safety of others on the roadways is threatened.

Types of Accidents That Occur in Virginia Due to Driver Fatigue

Any type of crash can occur when a truck driver is fatigued. However, it is more common for the following types of accidents to occur due to a drowsy driver.

Head-On Collision

Being drowsy while behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle can cause the driver to drift across center lines into approaching traffic, resulting in a head-on collision. Fatalities and devastating injuries, such as spinal cord and head trauma, commonly occur during these types of crashes.

Override Collision

If fatigued, a driver may have a slower response time and be unable to react to sudden stops or changes in traffic patterns, and this can result in them riding over the top of smaller vehicles. Override collisions crush other vehicles and badly injure passengers or cause fatalities.

Jackknife Accidents

With slowed reaction times and impaired judgment, fatigued drivers can be involved in jackknife accidents where one part of the truck (cab or trailer) folds in on itself at the connection point, creating a 90-degree angle. Even if the driver applies the brakes in an attempt to avoid something, the combination of speed and trailer weight prevents the ability to come to a quick halt. The trailer’s wheels will lock, and it will swing out, putting other vehicles in danger.

Rollover Accidents

Fatigue and inattention can lead to quick turns to avoid an accident, allowing one side of the big rig to rise or drop and result in a rollover. Any car too close to the truck can be crushed or badly damaged.

FMCSA Regulations For Truck Drivers

The FMCSA initiates regulations for commercial truck drivers for both their safety and that of the public. Trucking industry requirements were put in place to help ensure that truckers would not be overworked by their employers and to keep other drivers safe while operating on the roadways.

  • Hours of Service: CDL drivers may work only 14 consecutive hours in a row.
  • 30-Minute Break: Drivers are required to take half an hour breaks every 8 hours of driving time.
  • 60/70 Hour Rule: The maximum workweek for a driver has been reduced to 70.

What Should I Do If I Suspect That Fatigue Played a Role in My Virginia Truck Accident?

If you suspect that the truck driver was fatigued when involved in an accident with you, a Virginia truck accident lawyer will help build your case by compiling essential evidence. Such evidence should include the following:

  • Truck driver records
  • Records with date and time stamps
  • Witness statements
  • Video footage of the accident

Truck Driver Records

Request copies of truck driver records. These records will include driving logbooks, employment history, and data from the electronic logging device installed in the truck.

Records with Date and Time Stamps

Various records will list dates and times, and you can use these to calculate mileage and hours behind the wheel. Examples of this type of record include:

  • Gas receipts to show the time of day or night between stops and also mileage
  • Toll receipts
  • Hotel receipts
  • Bill of lading

Witness Statements

Review witness statements for mention of any signs of fatigue demonstrated by the driver or any statements made by the driver that indicate fatigue at the time of the accident.

Video of the Accident

Surveillance cameras are more prevalent today and can often be found at interchanges and intersections. Establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, may also have cameras, and many include them in their parking lots. These cameras may capture the accident or the seconds before the crash. By obtaining the videos, you may be able to determine a driver’s actions, demeanor, and appearance to identify any signs of fatigue.

Who is Liable if a Truck Driver Hits Me in Virginia?

Liability in a truck accident can sometimes be difficult to determine because someone other than the truck driver may be responsible. Knowing who is liable is extremely important for your case, however, so taking the time to research potential responsible parties will be imperative. These parties may include the truck driver, truck companies, or a different third party.

Truck Driver

Drivers have a duty of care and are responsible for safely operating their trucks at all times. If they fail to do so, such as when driving while fatigued and drowsy, they can be found negligent.

Truck Company

The company that employs the truck driver may also be responsible, partially or entirely. However, it must be proven that their drivers are pressured to meet deadlines, skip breaks, or otherwise violate federal regulations, all of which can lead to truck crashes.

Third Party

A third party may be responsible entirely or partially for an accident. For example, the driver of a car may ignore traffic signals or signs, causing the truck to crash into it. Other potential third parties include those responsible for the maintenance of the truck and cargo loaders. Truck parts may be found to be defective and be a contributing factor to the accident, thus putting the manufacturer of those parts in a liable position. Finally, if road conditions were poor or there were missing traffic or construction warning signs, local or state governments may be liable.

Did You Sustain Injuries Due to a Drowsy Truck Driver?

Being involved in an accident can be devastating, especially if you sustain injuries due to a drowsy truck driver. If you or your loved one have been injured as the result of a truck accident, you need the help of an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney. The Montagna Law firm serves truck accident clients throughout the Hampton Roads area, including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk. Schedule your free consultation today by calling 877-622-8100 or using the contact form found on our website.

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