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Fatigued Truck Drivers

Have you ever been driving late at night or early in the morning when, suddenly, it seems like you can't keep your eyes open? When you are drowsy or otherwise fatigued at the wheel of a vehicle, you become less alert to the world around you, and it takes you longer to respond to stimuli. Fatigued driving is dangerous for drivers of all types of vehicles, but it is particularly dangerous for truck drivers. These drivers are in control of much larger and more temperamental vehicles than the average driver, meaning that fatigued truck drivers represent a dire threat to all drivers around them.

Here at Slappey & Sadd, we have seen many clients who have suffered injuries as a result of being hit by a truck driver who was fatigued. If you have been severely injured in a truck accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, it might be a good idea to have an attorney look over your case before you accept a settlement from the truck driver's insurance company. Our attorneys handle all types of truck accidents claims, including those against truck drivers who caused accidents as a result of being fatigued. When you hire an experienced lawyer, you can rest assured that you will have a strong advocate for your interests when you go up against a trucking company.

Fatigued Driving is Common and Widespread Among Truck Drivers

Truck drivers have a limit on the number of hours they are allowed to drive at any one time before they are required to take a break to rest. The federal hours of service rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration set these hours-of-service limits, which vary according to whether the driver is carrying cargo or passengers. For cargo-carrying trucks, drivers may drive no more than 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. The purpose of these rules is to reduce incidences of fatigue-related truck crashes, but, as we shall see below, they are not always followed.

In an article in the Journal of Public Health Policy, a team of six researchers interviewed 1,249 truck drivers at inspection stations and truck stops in the states of Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Based on these interviews, the researchers found that 31% of the truck drivers admitted to having driven more than the federal weekly hours-of-service limit of 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days. Another 6% of the drivers stated that they had not violated the hours-of-service limit during the current month, but had done so in the previous month. Most alarmingly, 19% of truck drivers in the study admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel of their truck at least once in the past month. Thus, the problem of truck drivers being fatigued is common and widespread and represents an imminent danger to all drivers on the road.

Why do Truck Drivers Drive When They are Fatigued?

The reason why truck drivers drive when they are fatigued-putting themselves and others at risk of injury and death-usually boils down to money. According to the same Journal of Public Health Policy article, 33% of drivers cited a tight schedule as the reason why they violated hours-of-service limits, while 31% cited needing more money, 12% cited traffic jams, and 10% cited inclement weather. Thus, roughly two-thirds of the drivers polled admitted to violating the rules for economic reasons, either to please a customer or to earn a living. To cover up these violations, truck drivers have devised elaborate schemes to falsify their log books to make it appear as though they are not driving as much as they actually are. Many truck drivers even refer to these log books as "comic books," since falsification of logs is so common and it is so difficult for USDOT officials to verify log entries.

Symptoms of Truck Driver Fatigue

It is often very difficult for a driver to assess his or her own level of fatigue since fatigue affects people in different ways. The ability to self-assess one's level of fatigue also becomes more difficult the more fatigued one becomes, which exacerbates the problem. Although fatigue affects everyone differently, there are a few common symptoms of driver fatigue that many individuals exhibit, including:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Narrowing of attention
  • Head nodding
  • Inability to keep eyes open
  • Not remembering events that occurred within the last few minutes
  • Poor judgment
  • Slow reaction time
  • Zoning out
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
  • Constant yawning
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Drifting in the lane

Some of these behaviors are noticeable to observers, while others are not. If you notice a truck driver in your vicinity exhibiting any of these behaviors (for example, drifting in his lane or looking down at his lap instead of at the road ahead) stay far away from that truck.

Holding Trucking Companies Liable for Accidents Caused by Fatigued Truck Drivers

Although the truck driver himself is the one who is most liable for causing the accident, a plaintiff injured by a fatigued truck driver may also be able to bring a claim against the driver's employer. This is due to the legal doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds that an employer is legally responsible for the wrongful acts of their employees or agents if such acts occur within the scope of the employment relationship. Since a fatigued truck driver is by definition carrying out a task for his employer at the time he causes an accident, the theory applies directly to these situations.

Contact an Atlanta Fatigued Truck Driving Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a truck accident that you suspect was caused by a fatigued driver, you may be able to seek compensation. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Fulton County, Cobb County, and DeKalb County.

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