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Illinois motorists urged to drive cautiously around tractor trailers

Despite federal regulations, drowsy truckers and negligent trucking companies present a risk to motorists on the road.

Most Chicago drivers are used to sharing the road with commercial tractor trailers on a regular basis. Yet, many motorists may be unaware of the potential dangers that these massive vehicles can bring. Although there are many skilled commercial truck drivers who take safety on the road very seriously, there are other truckers who drive while drowsy, distracted or impaired. Some large truck operators may speed through unsafe weather conditions or construction zones, with little to no regard of the risk they are imposing on other motorists. Truck driver negligence contributed to the deaths of 3,802 motorists across the country in 2012, and 115 motorists in Illinois, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drowsy truck drivers

With a job that pays per mile, truck drivers are forced to spend time behind the wheel if they want to make ends meet. However, federal regulations limit the amount of time truck drivers can actually spend driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Hours of Service regulations prohibit drivers from spending more than 11 hours a day behind the wheel. The regulations also make drivers take a half hour break within the first eight hours of their shift. Truckers who put in a full 70-hour work week are required to rest for 34 consecutive hours. This resting phase must include two periods between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m.

How are trucking companies involved?

Trucking companies have also been blamed for scheduling their drivers to work in violation of the Hours of Service regulations in order to make deadlines or move more freight. In the recent, high-profile truck accident involving actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, the truck driver who rear-ended Morgan's limousine had been awake for 24 hours before the accident occurred, according to Business week.

Not only was the trucking company allegedly aware of this, but they had scheduled the trucker to drive 700 miles from his home in Georgia to pick up his trailer in Delaware, and then had him deliver his freight after that. Morgan and several other people who were involved in the catastrophic accident have filed a lawsuit against the trucking company responsible for hiring, training and scheduling the driver.

Other contributing factors

Although new safety technology is available for tractor trailers, only 10 percent of trucks that are in operation have implemented this new equipment, according to the American Trucking Association. Just because trucks have active safety technology does not mean that it actually works correctly. Icy roads, fog, high winds and rain can also spell disaster for truckers who are driving an 80,000 pound vehicle.

When an accident occurs

Truck accidents can cause severe injuries, emotional trauma and extensive property damage to those who are victimized by a collision. Illinois residents who are involved in a large truck accident may receive life-changing injuries, including spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury, broken bones and even paralysis. A personal injury attorney in Illinois can help people who have had their lives changed due to the negligence of a trucker.

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