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Driving a large commercial truck requires attentiveness, good judgment, and swift reflexes, all of which are impaired by excessive fatigue. Drivers can become tired or fatigued due to poor sleep hygiene, physical or mental overexertion, medical issues, or a combination of these and other factors.
When a drowsy driver gets behind the wheel of a truck, a devastating truck accident can easily result.
If you were hurt in a North Carolina truck accident involving truck driver fatigue, you may be entitled to compensation. The trusted truck accident attorneys of Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, have in-depth experience with truck accident cases and can help you understand what steps you can take to pursue the financial recovery you need.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options in a free initial consultation.
What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?
Common causes of fatigue among North Carolina truck drivers include:
- Driving for long periods – Long hours of isolation and boredom on the road can leave drivers mentally and physically exhausted, increasing the risk of drowsy driving truck accidents.
- Employer demands – Employers in the trucking industry know the dangers of drowsy driving, but some companies still encourage unsafe driving practices or impose unreasonable scheduling demands on truck drivers.
- General lack of sleep – Chronic fatigue from days or weeks without adequate rest can seriously impair alertness and negatively impact driver performance.
- Certain medications – Legal over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause drowsiness. For example, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study showed 17 percent of commercial truck drivers reported using over-the-counter drugs such as cold medicines when crashes occurred.
- Medical conditions – Undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions such as sleep apnea can result in poor quality sleep habits and chronic fatigue, increasing the risk of drowsy driving crashes.
- Driving in the dark – A study by the FMCSA found that drivers are less alert when they drive at night, especially when driving after midnight.
How Does Fatigue Contribute to Truck Crashes?
Truck driver fatigue contributes to North Carolina truck accidents because:
- Drowsy drivers have trouble staying focused. When truck drivers are tired, they tend to struggle to pay attention to traffic flow. Drowsy drivers may not notice vehicles in their blind spots or changes in traffic patterns.
- Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times. Similar to drunk drivers, drowsy drivers often have trouble with their reflexes. Fatigued truckers often fail to react quickly enough to avoid traffic hazards and prevent accidents.
- Drowsy drivers struggle to make quick decisions. When truck drivers are traveling at speed, they often need to make swift judgment calls to keep themselves and others safe. Drowsy truckers may have trouble deciding whether to alter their speed, change lanes, or proceed through an intersection.
- Drowsy drivers can fall asleep behind the wheel. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), some drowsy drivers nod off for short periods of “microsleep,” which often last four to five seconds. For example, at just 55 mph, a tired driver can travel the length of a football field in five seconds, utterly oblivious to their surroundings.
North Carolina Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations
To discourage driving while fatigued and reduce the rate of drowsy driving truck accidents, the FMCSA imposes the following hours of service regulations on the commercial trucking industry:
- The 11-hour driving limit – Truck drivers are prohibited from driving longer than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
- The 14-hour on-duty limit – Truck drivers are prohibited from driving beyond their 14th hour after coming on duty. Additional off-duty time may not be used to extend the 14-hour limit. However, drivers may extend the 14-hour window and the 11-hour limit by up to two hours if they encounter adverse driving conditions.
- The 30-minute break requirement – Truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without at least 30 consecutive minutes of break time.
- The 60/70-hour per week limit – Truck drivers are prohibited from driving more than 60 hours in a seven-day period or more than 70 hours in an eight-day period. Drivers can restart a seven- or eight-day period by taking at least 34 consecutive hours of off-duty rest time.
Drowsy Driving Statistics in North Carolina
It can be challenging to prove that a negligent truck driver was drowsy when a crash occurred, so many states, including North Carolina, do not address drowsy driving statistics in their annual reports. However, the following data from the FMCSA and the NSC shed light on the dangers of drowsy driving:
- The effects of staying awake for more than 18 hours are similar to the impact of having a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit.
- Drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident if they drive while fatigued.
- One study estimates that as many as 328,000 drowsy driving accidents occur each year, with at least 109,000 resulting in injuries and 6,400 resulting in death.
- Researchers believe that drowsy driving accidents occur roughly 350 percent more often than reported.
- A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed one in every 25 drivers admitted to falling asleep while driving within the past month.
What Can I Do If a Fatigued Driver Caused My Accident?
If you were involved in a drowsy driving truck accident in North Carolina, you can take the following steps to protect your right to recover compensation:
- Seek prompt medical attention for your injuries.
- Follow your doctor’s prescribed care plan and attend all follow-up appointments.
- Gather as much evidence as possible from the accident scene, including photos, driver information, and witness statements.
- Write down everything you can remember about the crash and start a journal to record your daily pain levels and physical limitations.
- Keep track of medical bills, repair invoices, pay stubs, and other proof of your accident-related financial losses.
- Decline to provide recorded statements to the insurance company.
- Avoid discussing the accident on social media.
- Contact a knowledgeable car accident attorney for a free consultation.
Find out How a North Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help
At Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, our personal injury lawyers have been serving accident victims in North Carolina for three generations. Contact us today to learn how we can help you secure fair compensation for your truck accident injuries in a free initial case review.