Most drivers here in South Carolina and elsewhere can remember a time when they got behind the wheel despite being so tired that they hardly remember getting to their destinations. This feeling is dangerous enough for people driving passenger cars.
However, when the vehicle is an 18-wheeler, there is a marked increase in the potential for a catastrophe to occur. Truck driver fatigue accounts for 13 percent of all commercial trucking accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
What the FMCSA recommends
The FMCSA has been trying to combat truck driver fatigue from all angles. According to studies compiled by the organization, three primary factors lead to drowsy driving: long hours, sleep problems and unhealthy lifestyles. Studies also found several ways truck drivers can minimize fatigue so they stay awake and alert while driving. The FMCSA recommends that truckers:
- Get enough sleep and avoid driving during the body's peak sleep hours (12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Do not skip meals or eat at irregular times because it can induce fatigue or interrupt sleep
- Nap from 10 to 45 minutes when needed, and to take 15 minutes to become fully awake before driving
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness, including over-the-counter medications, such as allergy pills and cold medicines
- Recognize the indicators of drowsiness, such as blurred vision, heavy eyes and frequent yawning (being awake for 18 hours or more is like being legally intoxicated!)
- Avoid relying on alertness tricks like drinking caffeine, opening the windows and playing loud music, which are only temporary fixes
Holding negligent truckers accountable
Delving into the lifestyle habits of the truck driver is a necessary part of the investigation into your accident. Federal law requires truck drivers to take regular breaks and log those rest periods accurately in a company logbook.
If a truck driver who causes an accident failed to follow federally mandated rest laws or fudged their logbook entries, victims could receive compensation for injuries, lost wages and other damages. Obviously, any amount won't erase the emotional and physical toll of a serious accident, but it could defray the financial losses sustained.
If you or a loved one were involved in a serious trucking accident, talk with an experienced lawyer today.