Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents? 

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Truck Accidents Caused By Driver Fatigue

truck driver pay and safety on the jobThere is no doubt: driver fatigue causes truck accidents. Driver fatigue, also known as drowsy driving, is when a driver operates a vehicle while they are tired. Drowsy driving can happen to anyone at any time and it is extremely dangerous. Dozing off, even for just a few seconds, can cause the driver to run the truck off the road or crash into another vehicle. 

Driver fatigue slows down reaction times, decreases awareness and attention, impairs judgment, and increases the risk of a fatal truck accident. A semi or tractor trailer carrying cargo can weigh about 24 times more than a typical sedan. Therefore, an accident due to driver fatigue involving a truck and a car is more dangerous for the passengers in the car than the truck. 

Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyers

If you or your loved one were hit by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel or was impaired due to fatigue, the truck accident lawyers at Munley Law are available to help you recover compensation for medical costs, property damage, lost wages, future earnings, and pain and suffering. 

Munley Law is a family-run firm that has focused heavily on truck accidents in Pennsylvania for over 60 years. The truck accident lawyers understand that the aftermath of a truck accident can leave the victims and their families shocked, physically injured, and emotionally distressed. In the worst cases, the Munley lawyers meet their clients for the first time while they are in the throes of grief. 

Your Munley semi truck attorney will show you compassion and care in the office but will fight fiercely for your rights in the courtroom. Call today for a free consultation with one of the nationally recognized tractor trailer accident lawyers at Munley Law. They will do what they do best: make sure justice is served, ensure you are fairly compensated and free up time for you to focus on a full and complete recovery. 

How Common is Driver Fatigue Among Truck Drivers?

truck drivers and truck accidentsThe Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that 1.2 million collisions are caused by drowsy driving each year, costing $109 billion in damages. The DOT also estimates that drowsy driving kills between 5,000 and 8,000 people each year – a higher fatality rate than accidents caused by distracted driving! Truck drivers are one of the top professions to drive while fatigued, third only to shift workers and business travelers. 13% of commercial truck drivers were reported to be fatigued at the time of their accident. 

Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. While Americans have been taught the dangers of drunk driving since grade school, very little is mentioned about the risks of driving while fatigued. If a truck driver gets behind the wheel after being awake for at least 18 hours, it is the same as getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. If a trucker drives after being awake for at least 24 hours, it is the same as driving while having a blood alcohol content of 0.1%, which is higher than the legal limit. 

Pennsylvania residents are trying to get their state representatives to put drowsy driving laws into effect, like Arkansas’ drowsy driving law, or New Jersey’s “Maggie’s Law.” However, currently, there is no drowsy driving legislation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Semi Truck Driver Fatigue? 

There are several warning signs to be aware of if you are on a long drive:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused on the road.
  • Having trouble keeping your head up.
  • Daydreaming or wandering, disconnected thoughts. 
  • Drifting from your lane.
  • Drifting off the road.
  • Tailgating.
  • Yawning frequently or rubbing your eyes.
  • Missing signs or exits.
  • Feeling irritable, restless, or aggressive. 
  • Unable to remember how far you’ve traveled or landmarks you passed.

If you notice you are doing any of these things, the safest thing you can do for yourself and every other driver on the road is to pull over and rest. Do not try to tough it out – just stop driving. Pull the truck over and take a 15 to 20 minute nap in a safe place, such as a rest stop. 

How Can Truck Drivers Avoid Driving While Fatigued? 

There are several steps a truck driver can take to prevent drowsy driving and falling asleep at the wheel:

Get enough sleep

Truck drivers, especially cross country truckers, cover thousands of miles per trip and are driving for hours at a time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets strict regulations limiting the number of hours they can drive to 14 consecutive hours. However, 14 hours behind the wheel is still a lot. The best thing to do before getting behind the wheel is to get enough rest. If at all possible, truck drivers should not drive at the peak sleepiness hours, which is between 12am and 6am. 

Maintain a healthy diet

Skipping meals, or eating heavy meals, can severely interfere with your sleep patterns. The best thing to do is to eat at regular times and even have a light snack before bed. Being well-rested before a long drive will help with reaction times, attention, and awareness on the road. 

Take a nap

If you get to the point where you display the warning signs of drowsy driving, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so (and in a safe location) and take a nap. Ideally, the nap should be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes long. Short naps are actually more effective in restoring energy than a cup of coffee. 

Avoid medication that induces drowsiness

Do not take any medications that have drowsiness as a side effect. Check the warning labels before taking anything. If you are on prescription medications, speak with your doctor before getting behind the wheel. 

Recognize the signals of drowsiness

Pay attention to yawning, heavy eyes, and the other signals listed above. If you are experiencing any of them the safest thing to do is to stop driving

Do not rely on “alertness tricks” to keep you awake

Smoking, turning up the radio, and opening the windows are not cures for driver fatigue. While caffeine is good to drink on long trips, it can take several minutes to get into your system, so do not rely on it. The only sure way to keep yourself from driving drowsy is to get enough sleep. 

More tips:

  • Avoid alcohol intake.
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, especially before a long trip.
  • Plan ahead to limit the number of hours of driving. Truckers should not depend on extremely long days of driving. 
  • Take frequent breaks at rest areas and travel plazas.
  • Travel with a partner to share some of the driving responsibilities. 

How Can I Prevent Getting into a Truck Accident in Pennsylvania? 

While so many things are out of your control while driving on Pennsylvania roads and highways, there are several things you can do to drive defensively and reduce the risk of being involved in an accident with a semi, commercial, or tractor trailer truck:

  1. Do not travel in the No-Zone. The No-Zone is what the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation calls three points of a commercial truck. Two of the points are the two sides of the truck. If you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s sideview mirrors, then the truck driver cannot see you. The third point is behind the truck: if you linger behind the truck too closely, the truck driver will not be able to see you in their rearview mirror. 
  2. Pass a commercial, semi, or tractor trailer truck on the driver’s side and never stay next to the truck for long. Find a safe way to pass the truck and create as much distance as possible. 
  3. Don’t cut in, especially when cutting in wouldn’t leave you ample space between your car and the truck. 
  4. Do not try to squeeze between a truck and the direction it is trying to turn. 
  5. Pay attention: Focus on the road and don’t get distracted by your phone or other passengers in your car. 
  6. Remain calm and do not be overly aggressive on the road. Remember, everyone is trying to do the same thing – get from one place to another in the safest way possible. 
  7. Buckle up. Seatbelts are the best protection in any type of car crash and can be the difference between life and death for you and your passengers.

How Can a Munley Law Semi Truck Accident Lawyer Help Me With My Truck Accident Claim? 

Entrance to Munley Law officeThe aftermath of a truck accident can be overwhelming for the victim and their loved ones. Besides dealing with severe injuries, truck accident cases are often complex and may involve more than one liable party. The Munley Law tractor trailer accident lawyers are experts in their field and understand the Pennsylvania and national trucking laws, as well as various insurance policies. Your Munley truck accident lawyer will work with a team of people to build your case, including expert witnesses, eye witnesses, responding police officers, and accident reconstructionists. 

It is the responsibility of the truck driver and the truck company to make sure they are fully rested before getting on the road. You should not have to foot the bill for someone else’s negligence. Call the Munley Law truck accident lawyers today for a free consultation and speak with a legal expert about all your options. Recovery following a truck accident is long and difficult, but the claims process is one part of the journey you do not have to do alone.

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