Out of everything that a driver could do wrong, being tired behind the wheel is one of the most obvious. When a driver can hardly keep their eyes open, they’re not able to maneuver when needed. They’re barely able to do what they need to do to stay on the road. In some cases, they can’t even do that.
Drowsiness and exhaustion can both lead to serious crashes. Any time you’re tired or aren’t as alert as you should be, don’t drive. If you do, you could fall asleep or make mistakes that put your life in danger.
Why do truck drivers cause accidents due to drowsiness?
Part of the problem is how much they have to work. A driver might cut corners or go as far as to lie about how many breaks they’ve had so that they can get the job done. This is a bad idea, though, because driving drowsy makes drivers:
- Have a harder time paying attention to the roads
- Respond with slower reaction times when they need to steer or brake suddenly
- Less able to make good decisions when needed
What’s most surprising is that around 1 in 25 adults reported falling asleep while driving in the last 30 days. Drowsy driving itself was believed to be responsible for 800 deaths, 44,000 injuries and around 72,000 crashes in 2013. It’s impossible to say if these numbers are accurate, though, and it’s believed that drowsiness may lead to many more crashes than this.
Why are truck drivers more likely to drive when drowsy?
Driving for a living isn’t an easy job. There are long hours, lonely work conditions and sometimes physical injuries from sitting and lifting. Many truck drivers also face intense pressure from their employers to meet deadlines. In some cases, they could face disciplinary action or decreased work if they are repeatedly not on time. Others could receive a bonus for an on-time delivery.
Both penalties and bonuses encourage truck drivers to break or bend rules about hours of service. Delays due to weather or dense traffic conditions could leave a driver desperate to make up lost time. That could lead to driving for much longer than is legal or safe.
Truck drivers are legally required to take breaks
In order to limit the risks related to exhausted commercial drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has Hours of Service rules in place for commercial drivers carrying property in their vehicles. These rules limit how long drivers can operate a motor vehicle, as well as how many hours they can work within a particular number of days.
For example, commercial drivers cannot continue driving beyond the 14th hour after they start their shift. They can drive a maximum of 11 hours per shift, with 10 hours off duty between shifts. In addition to those restrictions, commercial drivers can only drive 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight days.
Electronic logging reduces the risk of fraud
Preventing exhausted driving can go a long way toward reducing the number of commercial vehicle collisions that occur annually on the roads. The limits for how long truckers can legally operate commercial vehicles have traditionally not always been respected by the drivers and the trucking companies that employ them. Deadlines and employer requirements may push commercial drivers to violate those rules.
It used to be relatively easy for truck drivers to intentionally misrepresent their driving habits. Handwritten log books are easy to alter. Some truckers even had a spare set of log books with them to ensure that one set showed they were in compliance at all times. But earlier this year, a federal mandate went into effect, requiring commercial drivers to upgrade to electronic logging devices.
ELDs automatically record the amount of time that a driver is behind the wheel. They also track the GPS placement of the vehicle, ensuring increased safety for the driver and others on the road. It is much more complicated for a driver to change or edit the records in an ELD. That could make it easier to prove that a driver frequently violates the legal limits on driving hours.
Safety should always be the priority in commercial driving
Commercial drivers should put the safety of the public before profits for themselves or their employer. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what happens. Drivers who make decisions that endanger the public should be held accountable for those decisions, especially if the result is the injury or death of another person.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is that anyone who is drowsy has the ability to pull over and stop to rest. Even if it means putting a delivery behind schedule, it’s more important to protect the health of a truck driver and the people on the roads around them. If you are hit by a drowsy driver, remember that you’re able to file a claim against them in Illinois.