When people don’t get enough sleep, it can negatively affect their ability to drive. Unfortunately, some of the people who drive the most — commercial truckers — are among the most prone to drowsy driving. The reason has to do with the rules they follow regarding rest and sleep time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that some 100,000 crashes every year are caused by people who fell asleep while driving. That could translate to 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries. Truckers aren’t responsible for all those wrecks, but there is reason to believe that they are more likely than the average driver to be sleep-deprived.
Federal law mandates that most commercial truck drivers must take a 10-hour break for every 11 hours driven in a 14-hour window, in most situations. This is meant to keep them from becoming dangerously tired.
However, some truck drivers skirt the rules. They may skim time off of their 10 hours’ rest. They may even falsify their logbooks to hide the fact that they are driving more than is allowed by law. The reason for this is that trucking is an industry that focuses heavily on deadlines. The sooner a delivery is made, the better. Truckers are under a great deal of pressure not to let rules get in the way of service.
Luckily, electronic logging devices are becoming more common. These make it much harder to fudge the numbers.
Where and when are drowsy driving crashes most common?
According to NHTSA, drowsy driving crashes can occur at any time of day or night, and in any driving circumstances. That said, drowsy driving crashes:
- Happen most often between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon. These times correspond with dips in drivers’ circadian rhythms.
- Commonly involve only one driver with no passengers. They frequently run off the road at high speeds with no evidence of braking.
- Often occur on rural highways and roads, where there is less to keep the driver awake.
Have you been hit by a drowsy trucker?
If you have been in a truck accident, you may not know the exact cause. However, there may be clues that indicate sleep deprivation was a factor.
In cases where a truck driver was put under time pressure and fudged their logbook, it may be important to ask whether the trucking company should be held responsible. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your specific accident.