Lexington, KY Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Attorney
Fatigued truck drivers are a major cause of commercial vehicle accidents. These drivers are under pressure to deliver their loads on time, so sleeping and taking rest breaks are often skipped. As a result, drivers aren’t as attentive as they should be, or literally fall asleep at the wheel. We represent those who are injured due to accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers.
The most famous incident of a fatigued commercial truck driver causing an accident happened in New Jersey in 2014. Comedian Tracy Morgan and his personal assistant were seriously injured and comedian James McNair was killed when a semi-truck owned by Walmart struck their vehicle from behind. The truck was traveling twenty miles an hour over the speed limit and the driver had been awake for nearly 24 hours when the accident occurred.
McNair was just one of almost 1,550 people who die each year as a result of drowsy drivers, and one of an estimated 4,000 people killed in large truck accidents each year. Morgan was one of the estimated 71,000 people injured by fatigued drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rules intended to prevent fatigued truck drivers from endangering others on the road. Commercial drivers need to take at least one 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of driving, and a long rest break must be taken prior to the start of a work week.
Driving while drowsy can be a problem for any fatigued driver, but the consequences are much greater as the size of the vehicle increases. The National Sleep Foundation reports:
- 36% of Americans have fallen asleep at the wheel, according to the 2008 Sleep in America® Poll.
- 60% of Americans have driven a vehicle while drowsy, according to the 2005 Sleep in America® Poll.
- NHTSA estimates 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of crashes involving drowsy driving result in injuries.
Truck drivers need not fall asleep at the wheel in order to endanger others on the road. Fatigue affects the ability to drive safely in many ways, according to the state of New York.
- Those who are tired can rapidly become drowsy and drift off to sleep. Falling asleep can occur in a split second, rendering a driver completely unaware of the situation.
- Being drowsy is a significant driving impairment. Several studies have shown it to be as dangerous as driving drunk. In performance testing, it’s been shown that 17 straight hours of wakefulness made a driver as dangerous as if his blood alcohol content was 0.05% (0.08% can result in an arrest for drunk driving). Cognitive impairment after 24 hours of being awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.10%.
Drowsiness can cause one or more of the following:
- Slow reaction times
- Impaired judgment and vision
- Inability to maintain attention
- Impaired short-term memory
- Decreased alertness
- Increased moodiness and aggressive behavior
- Problems with processing information.
Truck drivers are often unable to objectively judge their own fatigue levels accurately and can be unaware that their performance has degraded. A fatigued driver may fail to notice his truck is drifting between lanes.
The best way to prevent drowsy driving is getting enough sleep, which for most adults means seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night. Given that a truck driver may be driving for up to 70 hours a week (legally), getting sufficient sleep may be difficult or impossible.
- If every night the driver deprives himself of an hour of sleep, it creates a sleep debt.
- This lost sleep accumulates progressively over time, which leads to sleep deprivation and drowsiness.
- As the sleep debt increases, the greater the chance the driver will feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Kentucky doesn’t have a specific law making driving while drowsy or asleep a crime. If it happens and an accident results, a commercial driver could be charged with anything from reckless driving to manslaughter, depending on the severity of the crash and other circumstances.
Though physicians and researchers don’t truly know why we sleep, we do know that lack of sleep by a commercial driver can result in an accident, causing serious or fatal injuries. If you or a family member have been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact our office.
Fatigue may have played a role, and the driver and his or her employer may be legally responsible. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. We can discuss the accident, how it happened and your best options to move forward.