Drowsy Truckers: An Enormous Hidden Risk on North Carolina Highways
It’s an open secret in the trucking industry: driver fatigue is costing lives on U.S. highways.
Drivers for large commercial trucks, tanker trucks, and 18-wheelers often are eligible for bonus pay for delivering their loads in the absolute minimum amount of time. This encourages them to drive excessive hours and skimp on sleep breaks. As fatigue-poisons build up in their bloodstream, they are less and less able to concentrate on the task of driving, or they may nod off on a long stretch of straight highway. This is a recipe for a catastrophic truck crash in North Carolina or other states.
Measuring the Danger
Even when drowsy driving is suspected after a fatal truck accident, it is not always possible for police investigators to confirm the cause of the crash with certainty. They look for certain clues, however. Much of the time, drowsy driving accidents involve only one vehicle, and the driver generally is alone. The absence of skid marks or other signs that the driver has tried to avoid a crash often suggest that the driver was asleep when he went off the road or slammed into a stationary object. At the same time, the sleeping driver’s inability to react to the situation on the road means that these accidents often involve serious injuries and fatalities.
Because of the imprecise way that researchers conclude that drowsiness was a factor in an accident, the statistics on drowsy-driving incidents also are vague. A common estimate says that truck driver fatigue is at least partly responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all truck accidents, which makes sleepiness one of the leading causes of truck crashes nationwide.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the commercial trucking industry, recognizes the dangers from sleepy drivers. Its current rules for commercial truck drivers’ hours require that a driver has a 10-hour rest period between shifts on duty, and works no more than 60 hours within a seven-day period or 70 hours within any eight-day period. Commercial trucking firms don’t like those rules: they would rather maximize profits by keeping their trucks and drivers on the road as much as possible. Many companies tend to look the other way when drivers fail to rest as much as they should.
The Hazards on the Road
While researchers cannot always say with certainty that driver fatigue caused a particular North Carolina truck accident, there have been plenty of studies demonstrating how drowsiness can impair driving skills. Sleepiness is on a par with drunkenness and distracted driving in its ability to hamper the skills even of superior drivers.
Some of the known effects of fatigue include:
- Inability to concentrate on tasks
- Short-term memory impairment
- Irritability and aggression
- Impaired vision
- Lack of motivation
- Slower reaction times
- Distorted judgment
- Changes in cognitive thinking (information processing)
What Speaks Law Firm Can Do for You
At Speaks Law Firm, our Wilmington truck wreck lawyers regularly represent victims of traffic accidents in eastern North Carolina. We excel at obtaining recoveries for people injured due to the dangerous driving of a trucker. If you are looking for aggressive legal representatives to get you the compensation you deserve, contact us at 910-341-7570 (local) or 877-593-4233 (statewide toll-free) to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you get back on your feet, starting today.