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Truck driver falls asleep while driving, causes fatal crash on I-78 in Allentown

Daniel MunleyA report referenced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicated that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, which is legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk for a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

The truck driver in the fatal accident on I-78, who said he fell asleep at the wheel, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, careless driving and various traffic summaries. According to state police, he admitted nodding off 25 to 30 minutes before the crash. He tried to stay awake by rolling down the window and playing the radio, police said in court records. When his truck entered the toll plaza, it hit a wall designed to absorb impact from a wayward vehicle, went airborne and landed on top of car, killing the occupant, court records state.

Fatigue is recognized as a major risk factor for all drivers and a known contributing factor to road crashes, rivaling the effects of speed and alcohol. According to the Transportation Accident Commission around 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue. Driver fatigue is difficult to identify or recognize as contributing to a crash because, unlike alcohol or drugs, there is no test for fatigue. This means it’s likely the role of fatigue in accidents is under-represented in statistics.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, those who drive a high number of miles, and drive at night, are at significantly higher risk for fall-asleep crashes. Driver fatigue affects everyone and can strike at any time, no matter how experienced the driver. The risks associated with fatigue are greater for truck drivers primarily because of the nature and demands of the job. The job demands of the long-haul truck driver often interfere with opportunities for normal rest, include early start times, working long hours, prolonged night work, and irregular hours.

A recent report by the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) confirmed the midnight to daybreak period continues to be the highest risk period, accounting for more than half (52%) of all fatigue-related truck crashes. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver alertness was related to “time-of-day” more so than “time-on-task.” Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. This drowsiness may be enhanced if you have been on the road for an extended period of time. A recent research study from Australia found that long-distance truckers are three times more likely to get into an accident when they drive during midnight-to-dawn hours with few breaks.
Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer, Dan Munley, offers the following as warning signs of drowsy driving.
• Yawning or blinking frequently.
• Difficulty focusing or heavy eyelids.
• Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
• Missing an exit or traffic sign.
• Trouble keeping your head up.
• Drifting from your lane.
• Hitting a rumble strip.

Before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, you should make sure you’ve had enough sleep. Refrain from drinking or taking seating medications before driving. If you experience any of the warning signs mentioned above, it’s time to stop driving and take a rest.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, the Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys can fight for you. Call Dan Munley and the Munley team at 855-866-5529.

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