Drowsy driving has been a hot topic in the trucking industry for several years, especially following the highly-publicized truck wreck involving comedian Tracy Morgan, in which investigators found the truck driver’s fatigue as the most likely cause for the crash. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowsy driving can cause drivers to be less alert to hazards on the road, and also delays reaction time and inhibits a driver’s decision-making abilities while behind the wheel.
Despite the dangers, however, truck drivers often experience pressure by their employers to conduct deliveries in a time-efficient manner. Due to this, as well as the nuisances of daytime driving, drivers tend to prefer driving at night, when highway traffic is low. With this irregular lifestyle, it can be difficult for them to average eight hours of actual sleep per 24-hour period while on the road.
Crashes involving commercial trucks and small passenger vehicles can range from rear-end accidents, in which a truck fails to slow down in time to avoid hitting the car in front of it, to rollover accidents which are often caused by swerving (which can be common when a driver is fatigued) or underestimating speed or dangerous road conditions. Deaths and injuries that result from these accidents are almost always seen with passengers of the smaller vehicle.
Because accidents involving commercial trucks can be so devastating, many states have implemented legal consequences for instances of fatigue-related crashes. The federal government also enforces Hours of Service Rules that regulate truck drivers’ sleep.
Hours of Service Regulations
In fatal truck accidents involving drowsy drivers, it is often the passengers in the other vehicles that suffer. To protect motorists from the dangers caused by drowsy truck drivers, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that commercial truck drivers exceed no more than 11 hours of consecutive driving following a 10-hour break from duty and must not exceed 14 hours of on-duty time per day. Drivers must take a 30-minute break for every 8-hour period of driving and, to ensure that drivers are getting adequate rest following a trip, the law also requires that they take a 34-hour break following 60 hours of driving during a seven-day period or 70 hours of driving over an eight-day period. Commercial truck drivers must record their daily activities in logbooks to document adherence to these laws, which can then be used as evidence in a drowsy driving litigation.
Drowsy Driving in Washington, D.C.
In high-traffic areas, such as the nation’s capital, it is vital that drivers are able to navigate unexpected and dangerous roadway hazards, such as:
- Unexpected lane changes
- Vehicles blocking intersections
- Drivers speeding at a rate that exceeds the flow of traffic
- Violent halts in traffic
- Road construction
- Pedestrians or animals crossing the road
- Bus stops
- One-way streets
- Parked cars on narrow roads
- Poor road conditions and/or visibility due to the weather
In an area that is always buzzing with traffic and activity, truck drivers must be able to remain alert, even during times of relatively low traffic. As such, Washington, D.C. can be especially dangerous for motorists and pedestrians alike when drowsy truck drivers are operating vehicles on public roads.
Legal Representation for Injuries or Property Damage in Truck Crashes
In the event that a commercial truck driver does not obey the law and collides with your vehicle due to sleep deprivation, you may be able to seek compensation for damages inflicted upon your property and for your injuries. In wrongful death cases, family members of the deceased may also be able to seek compensation for medical expenses and other damages that resulted from the incident.
If you were recently in a wreck with a commercial truck, regardless of the circumstances, do not admit fault and contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. To learn more about commercial truck accidents and your legal rights, check out our blog.