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Understanding the Impact of Driver Fatigue in Truck Accidents - Jones Law Group

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Semi truck operated by a fatigued driver on the highway

Understanding the Impact of Driver Fatigue in Truck Accidents

Drowsy truck drivers pose a threat to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists because they are more likely to exhibit poor judgment, maneuver recklessly, or fall asleep behind the wheel.

  • Driver fatigue significantly impairs truckers’ driving abilities, similar to alcohol intoxication. It is a major cause of truck accidents in the U.S.
  • Fatigued drivers are at risk of losing control of their trucks. This can result in deadly crashes if they fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • Regulations by the FMCSA, such as the Hours-of-Service Regulations, aim to reduce fatigue-related truck accidents by limiting the number of hours truck drivers can operate.
  • Common causes of driver fatigue include insufficient sleep, monotonous driving, being overworked, certain medications, and untreated sleep disorders.
  • Proving driver fatigue in truck accident cases involves collecting evidence like police reports, driver logbooks, witness statements, and crash data to establish negligence and secure compensation for victims.

Driver fatigue can impair driving abilities in ways similar to alcohol intoxication. Fatigue behind the wheel is a significant contributor to truck accidents in the United States because it leads to delayed reactions, poor judgment, and reduced attention. 

Fatigued drivers are more prone to losing control of their trucks. The drowsiness-induced lack of alertness can hinder the driver’s ability to regain control of a large vehicle, often resulting in crashes. If a driver falls asleep entirely, these incidents can be deadly.

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a Florida truck accident involving a drowsy truck driver, Jones Law Group can help you identify the liable parties and maximize your compensation. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer in Florida, call us at (727) 571-1333 or submit this contact form

Understanding Truck Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is a critical safety concern, especially for truckers. A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that fatigue ranks among the top ten causes of large truck collisions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most accidents related to drowsy driving occur during specific times: between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., between midnight and 2:00 a.m., and between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Drivers must exercise extra caution during these periods due to the elevated risk of encountering drowsy drivers.

To ensure the safety of all road users, truck drivers must avoid getting behind the wheel when drowsy or exhausted. The DHHS emphasizes that fatigue can slow a truck driver’s reaction times, making it harder to avoid potential collisions.

The Impact of Drowsy Driving

Driving while fatigued not only endangers the driver. but also other motorists and road users. Tiredness can lead to mood swings and increase the risk of developing road rage. Additionally, brain fog caused by fatigue can impair a driver’s ability to navigate safely.

The dangers of driver fatigue extend beyond individual health concerns. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveals that 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in crashes were fatigued at the time of their accidents. These statistics highlight the serious risks associated with driving while drowsy.

FMCSA Regulations for Truck Drivers Aim to Prevent Drowsy Driving

Given that fatigue is a common factor in truck accidents, regulators have taken steps to reduce the risk of truck drivers operating while sleep-deprived. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established rules called Hours-of-Service Regulations to limit the number of hours truck drivers can be on the road. 

These regulations apply to drivers operating trucks that weigh over 10,000 pounds. They also apply to those transporting certain types of cargo, such as hazardous materials.

14-Hour Driving Window Limit

Once truck drivers begin any form of work, they are confined to a 14-hour driving window. During this period, they can drive up to 14 consecutive hours. After completing their 14-hour shift, they must be off-duty for at least ten consecutive hours before resuming driving. This rule applies even if breaks were taken during the 14-hour window.

11-Hour Driving Limit

Within the 14-hour driving window, drivers can only spend up to 11 hours driving. Once they reach the 11-hour mark within their 14-hour shift, they must take a minimum of ten consecutive hours off-duty before they can drive again.

60-Hour/7-Day and 70-Hour/8-Day Limits

Truck drivers are also restricted by weekly limits. They cannot be on duty for more than 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight consecutive days. These periods can start at any time of day and on any day of the week.

Drivers follow the 60-hour/7-day limit if their carrier does not operate every day of the week. Conversely, they adhere to the 70-hour/8-day limit if their carrier operates daily without breaks.

Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is caused by a variety of factors. Predominantly, it results from insufficient sleep. The monotonous nature of driving, particularly on highways, can also induce drowsiness, which is intensified by a lack of adequate rest. 

It’s worth it to hire a specialized truck accident attorney because they have experience establishing driver fatigue played a role in a collision. They are also familiar with other contributors to driver fatigue, including:

Driving During Naturally Drowsy Hours

According to the FMCSA, our bodies are naturally inclined to feel sleepy at certain times of the day, specifically between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m., and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Driving during these periods increases the risk of fatigue.

Use of Certain Medications

Many over-the-counter medications list drowsiness as a common side effect. These medications typically advise against operating heavy machinery, including vehicles, after administration.

Overworking 

While the time of day significantly impacts alertness, prolonged working hours further exacerbate drowsiness. Truck drivers often face demanding schedules, necessitating extended periods of uninterrupted driving.

Untreated Sleep Disorders

Drivers with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are more susceptible to falling asleep while driving. Although all drivers can experience fatigue, truck drivers are particularly at risk due to the nature of their work. This is especially true for long-haul truckers in the U.S., who may drive for up to 11 hours per shift.

Truck drivers average only about 5.18 hours of sleep daily, which is insufficient for maintaining optimal alertness. When this sleep deficit is combined with lengthy work schedules, medication use, or sleep disorders, the likelihood of collisions significantly increases.

Consequences of Driver Fatigue in Truck Accidents

Fatigue can significantly impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. This risk is particularly heightened for commercial truck drivers because these trucks require advanced skills to maneuver. The combination of fatigue and the added weight and size of a truck can result in various dangerous situations, such as:

  • Swerving between lanes
  • Veering off the road
  • Unintentional acceleration due to unconscious pressure on the gas pedal

When drivers fall asleep at the wheel, they may veer entirely off the road, potentially crashing into barriers like metal or concrete medians, trees, or even other vehicles. Suddenly waking up can also cause accidents if the driver overcorrects, leading to spins or rollovers. 

Legal Options for Truck Accident Victims: Seeking Justice and Compensation

Given that Florida truck accidents are on the rise, it’s essential to know your legal options. At Jones Law Group, we specialize in truck accident litigation, focusing on proving negligence such as driver fatigue to secure compensation for our clients.

The legal process starts with a thorough investigation to collect evidence, including driver logs, vehicle maintenance records, and witness statements. Demonstrating that driver fatigue contributed to the accident can be pivotal in determining the case’s outcome. 

In certain situations, the truck driver may be held liable for the truck accident. However, in cases involving commercial truck drivers, the employer might also bear responsibility. A truck accident attorney can advocate for the compensation you deserve, whether from the driver’s insurance company or a commercial trucking firm. 

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a semi-truck, you may be eligible for compensation covering lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and sometimes punitive damages.

Establishing Truck Driver Fatigue in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When victims of truck accidents suspect driver fatigue as a contributing factor, their personal injury attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to establish that fatigue played a role in the incident.

They will also take into account relevant laws that can impact your Florida truck accident claim. For example, each state has specific regulations for filing personal injury claims. In Florida, under Florida Statutes § 95.11, victims have up to four years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.

To prove that the truck driver was at fault due to fatigue, your FL personal injury attorney may rely on various documents and evidence, including:

Police Crash Reports

Police reports are crucial in a truck accident case. Law enforcement officers are trained to identify signs of impaired driving. That makes these reports valuable for the legal team to demonstrate driver fatigue.

Driver Logbooks and Recorded Hours

Exceeding the federally mandated Hours-of-Service Regulations can lead to accidents. Driver logbooks and recorded hours provide critical evidence that can show whether the driver operated beyond the safe driving limits.

Witness Statements

Eyewitness accounts can be instrumental in determining the truck driver’s actions during the crash. If witnesses observed that the driver did not attempt evasive maneuvers, it might indicate that the driver fell asleep. It could also suggest the truck driver was otherwise impaired at the time of the accident.

Crash Data and Facts

Data from the vehicle and the circumstances of the crash can also support your case. For instance, the time of day when the truck accident occurred could suggest a higher probability of driver fatigue, particularly if it aligns with periods known for increased drowsiness.

By gathering and analyzing this evidence, your Florida truck accident lawyer can build a strong case to demonstrate that driver fatigue was a significant factor in the truck accident.

Consult a Jones Law Group Attorney About Your Truck Accident Case Involving a Fatigued Driver

While it’s one thing to understand how driver fatigue leads to truck accidents, proving it is another challenge. If you’ve been involved in a collision with a truck and suspect that driver fatigue played a role, a truck accident lawyer from Jones Law Group can assist in building your case. 

Although identifying fatigue as the cause of the accident can be difficult, our personal injury attorneys can gather evidence to support your truck accident claim against the liable party. Our expert truck accident attorneys at Jones Law Group are dedicated to helping you secure fair compensation.

Navigating these legal complexities can be daunting, but our expertise ensures you are guided through every step of filing a truck accident lawsuit. We help our clients understand their rights and the legal pathways available to them.

Our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for each case, providing financial relief, and justice for those impacted by these unfortunate events. Schedule a free consultation with a capable Florida truck accident attorney by contacting Jones Law Group. Call us at (727) 571-1333 or submit this contact form.

Heath Murphy

About the Author

Heath Murphy is a partner at Jones Law Group and focuses on personal injury law. He has been working as a lawyer for 18 years and routinely writes about auto accidents, wrongful death, and personal injury laws.

Read more: Heath’s Bio