Each year, drowsy and fatigued truck drivers in Ohio and around the country are responsible for causing dangerous accidents which lead to severe injuries and road fatalities. Trucking and transportation companies in Ohio have a duty to ensure the drivers operating semis, tractor trailers, and other large commercial vehicles are sufficiently rested behind the wheel, or they may be held liable for truck accidents and the injuries that result.
Truck Accidents are reportedly on the rise in Ohio and the rest of the United States. A national road safety study conducted recently found that heavy trucks and buses are responsible for almost 4,000 road deaths each year. The annual societal cost of driver fatigue and drowsy driving is around $109 billion, not including property damage.
Sleep deprivation and driver fatigue is so serious because lapses of attention behind the wheel are more likely to occur, and lead to crashes. Recent studies sum it up: the less people sleep, the greater the risk of road accidents.
Large commercial trucks—delivery tractor trailers, tow trucks, busses, big-rigs and semi-trucks—can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. They are difficult vehicles to control, and a slight amount of inattention or fatigue can cause fatal accidents. Trucking companies and drivers may be negligent in their duties, and can be sued for endangering motorists and passengers on the road.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio personal injury attorney, experienced in investigating and settling truck and traffic accident claims for plaintiffs nationwide.
Truck Driver Logbooks & Ohio Accidents
Logbooks and other trucking company data obtained during the investigation process can be just as important as witness testimony. Experts can thoroughly analyze logbooks for accuracy because it is not uncommon for commercial truck drivers to falsify logbooks for various reasons. If inaccuracies are found in your case, you may use them as evidence of the driver’s negligence.
Drivers in Ohio are legally required to keep a daily record of when they are off duty, on duty, driving, and sleeping. The logs show when truckers are behind the wheel, which matters because the federal government regulates how much time truckers are allowed to drive in a given day.
Truck drivers are limited to driving 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off. Property-carrying drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off duty. Also, drivers must take rest breaks at specified intervals.
A driver who does not follow the regulations is likely to drive when tired and increase the risk of an accident.
Driver Fatigue Truck Accidents
Tens of thousands of drivers and passengers are injured in large commercial truck crashes every year. U.S. truck drivers suffer a disproportionate number of injuries in motor vehicle crashes, and the number of deaths and injuries of innocent motorists in these accidents is five times larger. Common truck accident injuries include:
Commercial Truck Driver Fatigue
Professional drivers with sleep disorders are also a particular risk. Researchers from the Institute of Medicine estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, some of which are drivers of semis, tow trucks, buses and other large commercial vehicles.
Shift workers are more likely than those who work a regular daytime schedule. Drivers tend to fall asleep at the wheel more on high-speed, long, rural highways. This is the daily task for many long-range commercial drivers. When Fatigued Worker Accidents, many drivers polled said they become stressed and impatient and may tend to drive faster.
Many truck drivers sacrifice sleep to make up time, and often to receive an early delivery bonus. Some estimates note that over 80 million drivers are sleep-deprived and drowsy behind the wheel in America every day.
Driver Fatigue a Leading Cause of Accidents
A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), found that U.S. motor vehicle deaths increased 7.7 percent nationwide in 2015. Driver fatigue is a likely cause for many of the accidents. The problem has become so serious that safety agencies have expanded their definitions of impaired driving to include drowsy drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2013, drowsy driving was responsible for 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths.
These statistics are likely underestimated. When a crash occurs, most drowsy drivers do not report the cause due to concerns about insurance, employment or legal consequences. About 23 percent of adults say they know someone personally who has crashed due to falling asleep at the wheel. Approximately eleven million drivers admit they have had an accident or a near miss because they were too tired to drive.
Who is at Risk in Driver Fatigue Truck Accidents?
Because commercial trucks are on the roadways 24 hours a day, any vehicle occupant is at risk of an accident when a driver is distracted or falls asleep at the wheel. Night driving carries an additional risk. People who work nights or long, irregular shifts are more likely to get behind the wheel when they are tired. Most crashes or near misses occur between 4:00 to 6:00 a.m. and midnight to 2:00 a.m.
A report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests with each hour of sleep lost, a risk for a driving accident increases. Drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as drivers who sleep seven hours or more. Drivers who get only four or five hours of sleep have four times the crash rate, nearly as dangerous as drunken drivers. Fatigue and drowsiness may lead to the following:
- Inability to pay attention to the road
- Noticeable swerving between lanes
- Slower reaction time
- Inability to make good decisions
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Causing fatal accidents
Additional risks involve commercial drivers or trucks and busses who have worked consecutive long shifts, worked overtime, work night shifts or who have taken medication that causes drowsiness.
Driver Fatigue Truck Accidents & Lawsuits
The best way to determine the cause of an accident you are involve in is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate with the assistance of accident experts. If a serious injury has resulted, victims are likely to be compensated for property damages, medical costs, lost past and future earnings, and pain and suffering.
Trucking employers and transport companies are accountable for their drivers and their on-road behavior. If trucking management overworks their drivers or is aware of their drowsy driving and fatigue, they can be liable for contributing to an unsafe working environment and dangerous roadways.
There are more than 15 million commercial trucks transporting over 70 percent of all U.S. goods every year. Commercial trucks—delivery tractor trailers, busses, big-rigs and semi-trucks—are very heavy and difficult vehicles to control. A small amount of inattention or fatigue can result in fatal accidents. If an accident occurs in part because a driver was fatigued, trucking companies and drivers may be liable for damages and sued for endangering other vehicle occupants on the road.
Driver fatigue, or physical or mental exertion that impairs performance, may be due to a lack of sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities, or substance related.
One study published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers were fatigued at the time of their last accident. The Truck Crash Causation Study reported over 12,000 commercial truck crashes over a span of about three years, which resulted in more than 249 deaths and 1,654 injuries.
How to Avoid Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents
- Get Enough Sleep—if a driver fails to get enough sleep, they should not drive while their body is naturally drowsy. Driver drowsiness may impair response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash.
- Be Aware at Night—a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver alertness was most related to “time-of-day.” Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. Drowsiness may be enhanced while on the road for an extended period of time.
- Healthy Diet Helps—skipping meals or eating at irregular times may lead to fatigue. Also, going to bed after a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. When drivers are not well-rested, fatigue may cause slow reaction time, reduced attention, memory lapses, lack of awareness, and reduced judgment ability.
- Nap When Necessary—drivers should take a nap when feeling drowsy or less alert. Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally a nap should be around 45 minutes. Allow about 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before starting to drive. Naps are more effective at restoring energy levels than coffee. Naps that prevent drowsiness are more effective in maintaining a driver’s performance than naps taken when a person is already drowsy.
- Avoid Medication That May Induce Drowsiness—most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles during use. They may include tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines and cold medicines. A large percentage of drivers have reported as having “over-the-counter drug use” at the time of an accident.
- Recognize the Signals of Drowsiness—be wary of frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision. Research has indicated that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, which is legally intoxicated.
- Do Not Rely on “Alertness Tricks”—behaviors such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and other methods of staying awake are not real treatments for drowsiness.
*It is well known that driver fatigue can result in an increased risk of crashes, which is due to a decrease in performance. It is reasonable to believe that restrictions on hours of service lead to a reduction in the percentage of driver fatigue accidents in Ohio.
Leading Causes of Truck Accidents
According to a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck driver fatigue and overworked drivers are the leading causes of truck-related accidents. These crashes often result in serious injuries and fatalities. Other common causes of Ohio accidents include:
- Vehicle brake problems
- Truck traveling too fast for conditions
- Driver unfamiliar with roadway
- Roadway problems
- Driver intoxicated with illegal or over-the-counter drugs
- Driver inattention
- Driver made illegal maneuver
- Driver distraction
- Defective Tire Treads
- Driver following too close
- Cargo overloading
- Driver intoxicated with alcohol