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Driver fatigue is a major factor in commercial truck crashes

Actor Tracy Morgan was severely injured in 2014 when a Walmart 18-wheeler rear-ended the limo he was riding in. Another limo passenger was killed and Morgan suffered multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.

The investigation revealed that the Walmart driver has been awake for more than 28 hours at the time of the crash. Truck driver fatigue is an industry-wide problem and a public menace.

Truck Crash Causation Study

According to a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a primary factor behind commercial truck accidents is fatigued and overworked drivers. The study looked at three years' worth of crashes," some 12,000 incidents with 249 deaths and 1,654 injuries. In a majority of the cases, an action or inaction by the driver were important reasons leading to the crashes. Sleep deprivation and fatigue from long shifts hampers alertness, reaction times and decision-making. And the wrong decision or slow reaction while operating a 40-ton tractor-trailer can be devastating for anyone else on the road.

In the Tracy Morgan case, the Walmart driver was going 65 mph at the time of the crash. He had not slowed down when entering a work zone and did not brake before smashing into the limo from behind. It was determined that he had driven 800 miles to get to work and then was 13 hours into his shift when the crash occurred. In all, he had not slept or rested for 28 consecutive hours.

Federal limits on driving duration

To make the roads safer for everyone, federal regulations limit how much time commercial drivers can be on the road without rest. The Hours of Service rules say:

  • 11-hour limit: After 10 consecutive hours off duty, a driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours in one shift.
  • 14-hour limit: This is a combination of working and driving in one shift that includes the 11 hours of driving.
  • 30-minute break: This must be taken no later than their eighth hour of working.
  • 60 hours in seven days: Drivers can work a maximum of 60 total hours in seven consecutive days.

USA Today uncovers fatigue regulation abuse

A recent story from USA Today analyzed more than 30 million electronic timestamps from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. What they found was a rampant disregard for federal fatigue rules. The investigation discovered that trucks serving these two ports, on average, operated without this break 470 times a day. Those vehicles were involved in at least 189 crashes that occurred within 24 hours of the illegal extended period of driving.

Driver fatigue symptoms

Falling asleep or extreme fatigue leads to unnecessary risks and increased chances of accidents. Some of the symptoms of driver fatigue include:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Poor judgment, slower reaction time
  • Head nodding, or inability to keep eyes open
  • Drifting in the lane
  • Not remembering the last few minutes
  • Daydreaming or wandering thoughts

When accidents happen

If you or a loved one are the victims of a truck accident, life can turn catastrophic in the blink of an eye or with the nod of a driver's head. An experienced accident attorney can investigate the accident using accident reconstruction experts, private investigators and injury evaluators to accurately determine liability. Your attorney can help recover financial compensation for your lost income, medical bills and other losses and damages. 

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