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The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

How Truck Driver Fatigue Causes Accidents

Driving when you're tired is almost as risky as driving while under the influence. One study found that around 13% of the accidents involving large trucks occurred because the driver was overly tired at the time. Understanding the dangers of truck driver fatigue should make you aware of potential risks while on the road.

How Truck Drivers Become Fatigued

Among the most common reasons that truck drivers become fatigued is because they didn't get enough sleep the night before. In this scenario, fatigue can set in quickly. If the driver continues working for too long without taking a break, the risk of being fatigued is higher. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers are able to legally operate their vehicles for 11 hours after being off duty for 10 hours. However, adhering to these rules doesn't make it impossible for fatigue to occur towards the end of a driver's shift. The factors that make it more likely that a driver will experience fatigue are:
  • Working oddly timed shifts
  • Driving under the influence
  • Illness
  • Using medications
Truck drivers are tasked with driving at any hour of the day, which can result in them working odd shifts. Some drivers will go past the 11-hour limit, which makes it much more likely that the driver will be fatigued before they end their shifts. There are also some drivers who are unable to properly stay awake at night, which can pose a problem if they normally drive during the day but pick up a shift that has them driving at night. Because truck drivers are paid on a mile-by-mile basis, many try to drive without taking the required breaks. If a truck driver becomes ill yet continues to drive, fatigue is also more likely. A wide range of illnesses can cause the affected individuals to crave sleep. Whether the driver suffers from a simple cold or a more serious health condition, their body won't have the same amount of energy that it does when not ill. The same is true if the driver takes certain medications that have side effects associated with being more fatigued.

Possible Effects of Fatigue

Driver fatigue causes issues almost immediately after it occurs. For one, sleeping drivers are unable to maintain proper control of their vehicles, which makes it more likely that serious accidents will take place before they wake up. It's also more difficult for weary drivers to keep their eyes on the road and focus on the things that are happening around them. If another car moves in front of the truck, the truck driver may be unable to react quickly enough. The same is true if a vehicle is in the driver's blind spot. Drivers who are fatigued find it more difficult to notice when a light changes color. It's common for fatigued drivers to have worse reflexes as well. Truck drivers require sharp reflexes to quickly react to road hazards and bad drivers. Just like a drunk driver, a fatigued driver loses most of their reflexes. If an accident is started by another vehicle in the vicinity of the truck, the driver may be unable to react in time to avoid making the accident worse. As an example, let's say that a truck driver understands that they will need to switch lanes in a few miles to take the right exit. If the driver is alert, they will know to move over as soon as they have enough space for such a maneuver. In this scenario, the truck driver will check blind spots and accurately determine how much space is available to them before changing lanes. If the driver is fatigued, they might not recall that a lane change is necessary until the exit has almost arrived. The driver could then make a sudden move to take this exit. Since the driver's reflexes are worse, they could misjudge the space that's available to them and cause an accident. If you're involved in such an accident, call an Allentown personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.

Safety Tips When Driving Near Large Trucks in Pennsylvania

You can take steps to avoid colliding with a fatigued truck driver by:
  • Not changing lanes suddenly
  • Always using turn signals
  • Avoiding driving beside trucks
  • Not closely following trucks
  • Driving at safe speeds
Even when you drive safely and follow the rules of the road, being in an accident is always a possibility. If ever you're injured in an accident, you may have legal options when the other driver is at fault. Call our Allentown personal injury attorney today at (610) 435-7400 to schedule a consultation.

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