Does Drowsy Driving Cause Truck Wrecks?

Drowsy driving happens far more often than most people want to believe. Falling asleep at the wheel is the most disastrous consequence of driving while drowsy or fatigued, but drowsiness can also cause drivers to be less attentive, to have slower reaction times when they encounter adverse road conditions, and to make poor driving decisions.  How common is it?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving-related crashes claimed 795 lives in 2017 alone. And tens of thousands more suffer serious injuries as a result of these types of crashes.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths annually. The CDC goes on to say that these are conservative estimates, and driving while drowsy or fatigued may actually be responsible for as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year.

Approximately one out of every 25 drivers over the age of 18 admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at least once during the past 30 days.

Drowsy driving usually occurs when a motorist has not had enough sleep before they get behind the wheel, but there are other factors that can contribute to this practice as well, things like alcohol, medications, driving for long periods of time, and untreated sleep disorders.  Experts report that individuals who snore or get less than 6 hours of sleep on a daily basis are more likely to fall asleep while driving.  The group most susceptible to the risks of drowsy driving though commercial truck drivers.

Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry

Driving a big rig truck is a very stressful job. Truckers typically put in long hours and spend several consecutive days driving over-the-road, and much of that time is spent driving during evening and overnight hours. This problem is made worse by trucking companies that put undue pressure on drivers to exceed Hours of Service regulations to deliver their loads on time. Under these conditions, it comes as little surprise that truckers are highly susceptible to becoming tired and fatigued when they are behind the wheel.

Sleep disorders are common in the trucking industry. According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study, almost one-third of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. When this condition is left untreated, it negatively impacts the quantity and quality of your sleep, making you less alert and focused while you are awake.

FMCSA regulations do not directly address sleep apnea, but they do prescribe that any individual with a medical condition that is likely to interfere with their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle should not be medically qualified to drive a commercial truck. However, as it stands today, truck drivers are not required to be tested specifically for sleep apnea, which means trucking companies may still be hiring drivers who have this condition and may not even know it.

Drowsy Driving and Trucking Accidents

When a large commercial truck is involved in a wreck, the consequences can be disastrous.  A fully-loaded semi-truck typically carries in excess of 80,000 pounds and, because of their weight and presence, they can do widespread damage when they collide with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.

Injuries from big rig trucking accidents are among the most serious and catastrophic.  In fact, occupants of other vehicles are 28 times more likely to be severely injured or killed (than occupants of large commercial trucks) when these vehicles are involved in a collision. In the vast majority of cases, these wrecks are the fault of the truck driver . . . and drowsy driving is often a major contributing factor.

Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident in Alabama? Call Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys

Truck accident cases are typically far more complex than a standard auto accident. There are often multiple parties that may share responsibility (such as the driver, trucking company, the owner or lessor of the truck, the shipping company that may have overloaded the truck, a vehicle or vehicle part manufacturer just to list a few).  As a result, a thorough investigation is required to determine the root cause. Trucking companies also tend to be very uncooperative, and in a state like Alabama where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal doctrine that says that, if they can place even 1% of the blame on the other driver, they will not have to pay anything, these companies will take aggressive actions to try to pin at least some of the blame on you, so they can avoid paying out damages.  In fact, in serious cases, the trucking company will often have investigators at the scene, gathering evidence, before those they hurt even leave the hospital.

At The Law Offices of Troy King, we have extensive experience successfully representing clients injured in trucking accidents in Alabama. From the moment we take the case, we go to work immediately to preserve important pieces of evidence and help you recover the maximum damages to which the law makes you entitled. Because of the complexities involved with these types of cases, it is best to get in contact with us as soon as possible, so we can take the steps necessary to gather and preserve evidence and to fully protect your legal right to compensation.

Call our office today at 334-215-4440 to schedule your free consultation with our legal team. You may also stop by our Montgomery office in person at your convenience, or if you are unable to come to our office, we will come to you.  

How to Avoid an Accident with a Big Rig

Every year in Alabama, there are thousands of large trucks involved in collisions. Tragically, many of these wrecks – more than 100 per year on average – are fatal. Those collisions that are not fatal often leave vehicle occupants with serious injuries, some of which are life-changing.

Unfortunately, you cannot depend on the truck drivers to keep you safe.  In fact, they are often overworked, pushed by their companies to drive further and longer and with heavier loads than the law even allows.  As you navigate Alabama’s roadways, here are some tips for avoiding an accident with a big rig and staying safe:

Keep Your Distance

Perhaps the best way to avoid an accident with a big rig is to not get too close to them to begin with.  You should keep as much distance between your vehicle and a large truck as possible.

If you do have to drive around large trucks (as will surely be inevitable at some point), remember that large trucks require much more room than smaller vehicles do when it comes to changing lanes, passing, and stopping. It’s especially important to remember that the required stopping distance for a large truck that is traveling at 65 miles per hour in good conditions is nearly two football fields’ worth of space.  Allow large trucks the room that they need to maneuver the road safely.

Drive Sober and Focused

Regardless of where you are driving or the type or number of other vehicles on the road, you should always make driving sober and distraction-free a priority. When you are fatigued, distracted, or impaired by alcohol or drugs (including over-the-counter and prescription medications), you increase your risk of an accident. In addition to staying focused, remember to always make sure to buckle up, as doing so could save your life in the event that you are in a crash.

Never Drive in a Truck’s Blind Spots

All vehicles have blind spots, but the blind spots on trucks are especially large. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reminds drivers that large truck drivers have a hard time seeing anything that is 20 feet directly in front of their vehicles, 30 feet directly behind their vehicles, one lane to the left of their vehicles, and two lanes to the right of their vehicles. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind when you share the road with big trucks:

  • Be alert to these zones and never drive in them. 
  • Never tailgate a large truck. 
  • Provide plenty of distance when lane-changing in front of a large truck. 
  • Always pass quickly.

Remember that Trucks Make Wide Turns

Drivers of passenger cars often get impatient when large trucks are turning in front of them, and may make the fatal error of attempting to pass a large truck while it is in the process of rounding a turn. Large trucks require more turning room than do smaller vehicles, and, as such, may turn from the middle or outside lane, and may swing wide in making the turn. While this can be frustrating for drivers of smaller vehicles who are in a hurry to get by, never attempt to pass a truck while it is turning. Attempting to pass a truck that is turning could result in a “squeeze-play” accident, which happens when a smaller vehicle becomes “squeezed” between the curb or another object and the body of the larger truck.

Exercise Basic Safe Driving Techniques

Driving around large trucks presents unique challenges and hazards, and passenger car drivers should be aware of the things like blind spots and the required stopping distance for larger vehicles. However, drivers should also exercise the basic safe driving techniques that are recommended every time a driver gets behind a wheel, such as always signaling before changing lanes and making your intentions clear, yielding when required, refraining from tailgating or cutting off another driver, maintaining a safe speed, and never driving aggressively.

Call Our Alabama Truck Accident Lawyers

Even when you act as safely as you possibly can when driving around a large truck, the actions of the truck driver or another driver, or unforeseeable circumstances, such as a tire blowout, can result in a devastating truck accident. If you are involved in a serious truck accident in Alabama, our truck accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Troy King can represent you in your claim for damages. Establishing liability and recovering your full damages award in a truck accident claim can be difficult; our lawyers help you to maximize your settlement and recover the damages you deserve.  The companies that own and insure these trucks will often send experts to the scene to gather and preserve evidence that they hope will keep them from having to pay a claim oftentimes before you even leave the hospital.  It is important that you have someone doing the same for you.  And the sooner, the better!

To schedule your free consultation with our legal team, please call us today at 334-215-4440 or send us a message using the contact form on our website. You can visit our Montgomery location to speak to our lawyers, or we will come to you.