The Role of Fatigue in Truck Accidents
Posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022 at 8:02 pm
According to federal statistics, up to 40 percent of all truck and big rig accidents are at least partially due to driver fatigue. This statistic has not changed in many years, even though the average driver knows that sitting behind the wheel of any vehicle for hours at a time is exhausting. Despite strict federal and state guidelines regulating how many hours a driver can spend in the cab, too many truckers feel compelled to “drive through” and make their delivery.
If you have been involved in an accident with a big rig, the chances of your having been seriously injured are high. The chances that the other driver has been tired and dozed off at the wheel are equally high. Reach out to us at Abel Law Firm. We’re well-experienced in such cases and are ready to help you.
Fatigued Drivers and Nearby Cars
Trucks have unique characteristics that make them harder to handle than even the largest SUV or minivan. They need far more time to slow down and brake. The length of the trailer means a lag between the front end swerving and the rear end swerving.
Trucks have enormous blind spots. Despite the common perception that truck drivers can see better because they are higher off the road, the portions of the road that cannot be seen are huge. The driver cannot see anything twenty feet immediately in front of the truck, for two lanes to the right of the truck from the cab to the rear of the trailer and for one lane on the left from the cab to the rear. If you cannot see the truck’s side mirrors at the back, the driver cannot see you, a distance of 30 to 50 feet.
How Fatigue Affects a Driver
A fatigued driver will lose track of where other cars are on the road and pay attention only to the truck’s position, a condition known as “tunnel vision.” Even if the driver saw you enter a blind spot, it may not register. A car that swerves suddenly in front of the cab may not be noticed, especially if it vanishes into the forward blind spot.
Tired drivers are slow. The size of the truck means that the driver must constantly be aware of traffic, spotting cars moving in and out of lanes ahead of them, but a fatigued driver, tunnel-visioned on the road, may not see a car drop into their lane until too late to brake.
Finally, fatigue feeds on itself. We have all felt the exhaustion of a long day, wanting only to get our chores done and get some sleep. Fatigue leads to poor decision-making and bad choices. A trucker who only wants to get to the loading dock and drop the trailer might force themselves to drive the last six hours instead of taking a federally mandated rest period, with disastrous results- especially when it involves a car. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.
When Accidents Happen
Federal guidelines require drivers to log their driving, resting, and sleeping hours. Since 2018, these logs have been supposed to be electronic rather than written, although written logs still exist. These logs are part of the so-called “black box,” a device similar to an airplane’s flight data recorder that monitors various parameters of the truck’s performance.
If you have been involved in an accident with a truck, this log is essential for establishing whether driver fatigue may have played a role in the collision. However, you need to act quickly. Drivers must keep the logs for only six months. After that, they can be erased or destroyed, like any other electronic record. Some companies download their drivers’ records, but they have an even shorter period to keep them: thirty days.
You should immediately contact legal counsel if you have been involved in a truck accident. Even if you do not plan to take legal action, your attorney can notify the trucking company and request a copy of the log and black-box data. This prevents any loss or destruction of data.
Witness statements at the time of the accident are also important. Their impressions of the driver during the incident may be critical. If other people at the scene believed the driver appeared tired or sleepy, you should make a record of that as soon as possible after the accident rather than months or even years later.
If you have been involved in a truck accident, the Oklahoma City truck accident attorneys of Abel Law Firm want to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at (405) 239-7046, or reach out online so we can get you the data you need for a successful insurance claim. Your first consultation is free and confidential.