Over the road truckers have one of the most stressful jobs in the marketplace. They are away from their families for several days at a time making deliveries, and they are typically out on the road for many hours each day.
Much of their driving takes place during the evening and overnight hours, when there is less traffic on the road, and many drivers are also under so much pressure to keep unrealistic deadlines that they are tempted to push the limits and drive longer than they should. Under these types of conditions, it is no wonder that many truck drivers are susceptible to getting fatigued and even sleepy when they are behind the wheel.
Drowsy Driving Among the General Population
Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous, and it is far more common than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowsiness is responsible for more than 70,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 fatalities each year. These are just the official numbers, however, and they are most likely underestimated.
Many drivers do not tell the police that they were sleepy right before an accident, because they do not want to get blamed for it. As a result, the CDC says that the number of annual fatalities that are caused by drowsy driving may be as high as 6,000.
While we are not sure about the number of drowsy driving-related fatalities, what we do know is that there are a lot of motorists out there who are driving while they are tired or fatigued. In fact, in one survey mentioned by the CDC, one out of every 25 drivers over the age of 18 admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past 30 days.
One of the things that makes drowsy driving so dangerous is that drivers often have difficulty realizing at what point they cross the line between being tired and falling asleep. No one knows the exact moment when that happens, and sometimes it can sneak up on you.
Falling asleep while driving can clearly result in catastrophic consequences, but even if that does not happen, the effects of drowsiness still make it more likely that a driver might cause an accident. Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times, and they may not be able to hit the break or turn the steering wheel in time to avoid an adverse situation that may arise.
Sleepy or fatigued drivers also have a more difficult time staying focused on the road, often blinking repeatedly just to stay awake. As they become more tired, their ability to multitask becomes severely diminished. This may cause them to miss important details, such as a vehicle entering their blind spot or a bicycle or pedestrian crossing nearby.
Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry
The CDC lists commercial drivers among the groups most likely to drive while drowsy. This not only includes long-haul tractor-trailer drivers, but also those who drive buses, tow trucks, and other commercial vehicles.
As mentioned earlier, commercial truck drivers work long hours, often alternating between day and night shifts. This can cause a lack of sleep and make it more difficult to adjust their bodies to being awake at different times of the day and night. In addition, it is estimated that nearly one third of all big rig truck drivers have sleep apnea, which is another major risk factor listed by the CDC.
These factors combined with the stress of the job and the temptation to violate federal Hours of Service regulations to deliver their loads on time put truckers in a position where it is difficult to avoid driving when they are tired or sleepy. Given the major risk of truck accidents caused by drowsy driving, it is incumbent upon trucking companies to put the safety of their drivers ahead of profits by taking steps to ensure that they have an adequate amount of rest before getting out on the road.
Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident in West Virginia? Contact Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. for Assistance
Drowsiness and fatigue are major contributors to many trucking accidents, and these types of accidents can happen with standard passenger vehicles as well. If you or someone close to you suffered injury at the hands of a drowsy driver, you deserve to be fully compensated. If your accident occurred in West Virginia, contact Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. for legal help. Message us online or call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 for a free consultation and case assessment.