Drowsy driving can be a problem for anyone who gets behind the wheel, but commercial drivers are especially vulnerable due to their rigorous work schedules. One study by the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) found 13 percent of truck drivers were fatigued at the time of their accident. Since accidents involving truck drivers and passenger vehicles are likely to cause severe injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicles, this is a cause for concern.
Drowsiness and Sleep Deprivation
Drowsiness peaks for everyone between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. followed by a shorter increase in drowsiness from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. These are the most dangerous times to be on the road. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has discovered that truck driver alertness is related more to the time of day than the time spent driving.
Sleep deprivation is a common complaint among truck drivers, with long haul truckers reporting they have the greatest difficulty getting the rest they need. Truck drivers are required to log their time on duty and obey federal work restrictions limiting their hours. However, balancing the demands of their jobs with family and personal responsibilities often leaves truck drivers with little time for rest.
A truck driver who has been awake for 18 hours straight will display similar impairment to someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent—the BAC for commercial drivers is only 0.04 percent.
Drowsiness and Other Medical Conditions
A number of medical conditions can also cause excessive drowsiness behind the wheel. Sleep apnea is a common cause of drowsiness during the day, especially for the two-thirds of truck drivers who qualify as obese. Other medical conditions linked to drowsiness include diabetes, hypothyroidism, depression, and chronic pain.
Commercial drivers are required to pass a DOT physical before earning their license or accepting a new position. Physicals must then be completed every two years, but it's possible for a driver to develop medical problems in between physicals that his employer may not be aware of. These conditions could lead him to fall asleep at the wheel.
FMCSA Safety Recommendations for Truck Drivers
FMCSA official guidelines recommend that drivers take a short nap when they feel drowsy. Naps should be between 10 and 45 minutes, with drivers having at least 15 minutes to fully wake up before driving. Short naps have been proven to be more effective in restoring alertness than relying on caffeine and other temporary alertness tricks such as opening a window or turning up loud music.
The FMCSA also recommends that drivers avoid over-the-counter medications that can cause drowsiness. Their research found that 17 percent of truck drivers reported over-the-counter medication use at the time of a crash, with most using cold medicines that cause drowsiness as a side effect.
Liability for Drowsy Driver Accidents
Truck drivers have a professional responsibility to operate their vehicles safely. If they do not believe they are able to do so, they are required to get off the road. Therefore, you're legally entitled to reimbursement for damages suffered as the result of an accident caused by a drowsy driver. In most cases, the truck driver's employer or the owner of the commercial motor vehicle will be held liable for accident-related damages. Your personal injury claim can include compensation for past and future accident-related medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.
Seeking Legal Representation
A trucking company will have a team of attorneys working to represent their interests, so it’s crucial that you obtain experienced legal representation for your personal injury claim. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s dedicated attorneys are committed to helping Louisiana residents obtain the personal injury settlements they need to move forward with their lives. Schedule a free, no-obligation case review to learn more.