Truck drivers log thousands of hours over-the-road each year, and many times, they drive for very long stretches during the overnight hours. Truckers are often under pressure to drive longer than they should because of tight deadlines and the need to stay on schedule and deliver their loads on time. These conditions can create a lot of fatigue and drowsiness while they are behind the wheel. When you are operating a vehicle that often weighs more than 80,000 pounds fully loaded, driving while drowsy can create a dangerous situation.
Drowsy Driving Statistics in the United States
Driving while drowsy is a more widespread problem in the US than most people realize. Here are some troubling statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Drowsy driving is responsible for more than 70,000 crashes and more than 40,000 injuries each year.
- Approximately one out of every 25 adult drivers (those ages 18 years and older) report having fallen asleep at the wheel at least once during the past 30 days.
- Several hundred deaths are directly attributable to drowsy driving-related crashes each year. However, the CDC believes that these numbers are underreported and that as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy driving.
Driving while you are drowsy and in danger of falling asleep at the wheel is just as dangerous (or worse) as driving while intoxicated. It is usually caused by driving without having enough sleep. However, there are other possible causes; such as alcohol, taking various medications, too many repetitive hours at the wheel, and having untreated sleep apnea or another type of untreated sleep disorder. Drowsy driving is dangerous because it slows drivers’ reaction times and it inhibits their ability to handle adverse conditions that may come up while on the road.
Drowsy Driving and Truck Accidents
The CDC identifies commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tractor-trailers as among the groups most likely to drive while drowsy. A report from the Harvard School of Medical Study also found that drowsy driving is a major problem with commercial truckers. The study concluded that nearly a quarter of million individuals drive while they are drowsy or fatigued each day, and nearly half of those who participated in the study admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel.
When a truck driver gets drowsy while operating an 18-wheeler, it can result in deadly consequences. Big rigs are 20 to 30 times heavier (when fully loaded) than a regular passenger vehicle, and when there is a collision, occupants of the passenger vehicle are 28 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed.
There are several reasons why commercial truck drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy then most other groups. As mentioned earlier, truckers are under a lot of stress, and although federal regulations prohibit them from driving an excessive number of hours without a break, they are often under pressure to violate these regulations in order to keep their schedule. To do so, they frequently turn to short-term fixes, such as coffee, other caffeinated drinks, and “uppers.” Unfortunately, these are no substitute for pulling into a truck stop and taking a much-needed rest.
Sleep apnea is another common issue among truck drivers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), as many as 28% of commercial drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. If the condition is not successfully treated, this could disqualify them from driving, because it would make them more susceptible to fatigue and drowsy driving, thus inhibiting their ability to operate the vehicle safely.
Injured in a Trucking Accident? Contact a Skilled Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to you has been injured in a truck accident that was the result of drowsy driving or any other type of negligence, you deserve to be fully compensated. Truck accident cases can be complicated, however, because there are multiple parties that may be responsible and determining who is at fault requires an extensive investigation from legal professionals with in-depth knowledge of this area of the law. At Schilling & Esposito, we have successfully represented numerous clients who have been injured in truck accidents, and we put our extensive experience to work to aggressively pursue full and fair compensation on behalf of each client we serve. For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office today at 804-261-1001, or send us a message through our online contact form.