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Fatigued Truck Drivers A Danger On Minnesota Roadways

One might refer to them as the three “Ds” of decidedly disastrous driving. Too often drunk, distracted and drowsy driving creates mayhem on the nation’s roadways. Avoidable accidents cause injuries and take lives, Denver Auto Accident Lawyer deal with many daily cases related with road accidents everyday.

Fatigued Truckers: A Unique Class (car wreck attorneys)

Fatigued truck drivers are a danger on Minnesota roadways in part because of the sheer size and weight of the rigs. A fully loaded semi tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, approximately 20 times that of a typical mid-size passenger vehicle. Trucks with oversize or overweight permits may weigh over 100,000 pounds.

The federal government’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) found that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers in crashes were believed to have been fatigued at the time. In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) updated work rules designed to reduce trucker fatigue. Among other things, it required a driver to take a 30-minute rest break during the first eight-hours on the road. The new rules effectively reduced the workweek from a maximum of 70 hours, down from the previous maximum of 82 hours. 

Fatigued truck driving remains a problem in Minnesota and across the country. Some truckers disregard the rules in order to maintain tight delivery schedules imposed by trucking firms. Stressful conditions like adverse weather, extended night driving and navigating narrow lanes in constructions zones may add to trucker fatigue. Schedules are often driven by the demand for timely deliveries rather than a concern for the health and welfare of truckers. Adding to the problem is the FMCSA assertion that drowsy truckers are often unable to self-diagnose their fatigue levels. This sometimes leads to truckers with slowed reaction times and impaired judgement remaining oblivious to the dangers. 

Equating Drowsy and Drunk Driving  

Now, a breakthrough study better quantifies the risks posed by fatigued driving. Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement is the title of the new study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The December 2016 report, authored by AAA senior research associate Brian C. Tefft, provides key evidence about the dangers of drowsy driving. 

The sleep deprivation study asserts that motorists with substantially less sleep than normal pose serious safety risks on the nation’s roadways. Those that missed 2-3 hrs of sleep during the previous 24 hours “more than quadrupled their risk of a crash compared to drivers with the recommended 7 hours of sleep.

Those missing just 1-2 hours of sleep still pose a safety hazard. The researchers say that even that level of sleep deprivation doubles crash risk.

The director of AAA’s traffic safety foundation, Dr. David Yang, put it succinctly, “You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel.” 

As Much as 11.5 Times the Risk

However, before the most recent study, the specific relationship between sleep deprivation and crash risk had not been quantified.

This new study quantifies crash risk based upon relative levels of sleep deprivation.

First, researchers calculated the crash risk of motorists who slept seven hours or more during the previous 24 hours. Then, they compared crash risks at various levels of sleep deprivation. It turns out that crash risk rises exponentially with significant sleep deprivation:

  • 6-7 hours of sleep = 1.3 times the crash risk
  • 5-6 hours of sleep = 1.9 times the crash risk
  • 4-5 hours of sleep = 4.3 times the crash risk
  • <4 hours of sleep = 11.5 times the crash risk

The results are dramatic. Crash risk rises 430 percent of more among drivers who sleep just two hours less than the 7-hour standard. And, the study calculates that those with less than four hours of sleep see their risk of a crash increase by 1,150 percent.

Such levels of increased risk associated with substantial sleep deprivation approach those of legal drunk drivers. In a University of Chicago study entitled How Dangerous are Drunk Drivers, lead researcher Steven D. Levitt concludes, “Drivers with alcohol in their blood are seven times more likely to cause a fatal crash; legally drunk drivers pose a risk 13 times greater than sober drivers.”

Drowsiness Impacts Driving Skills

Why exactly is it statistically more likely that a sleep-deprived driver will get into a wreck? Drowsy driving adversely impacts motorists in serious ways. They often experience reductions in:

  • Alertness
  • Reaction time
  • Judgment
  • Attention
  • Decision-making 

According to NHTSA’s FARS database, for the half-decade ending 2009, an annual average of 83,000 police-reported crashes were attributed to drowsy driving, including an average of 37,000 accidents with injuries and an average of 886 fatalities. However, some studies suggest that drowsy driving is under-reported following crashes. Previous AAA research estimates that seven percent of overall crashes, 13 percent of crashes causing injuries requiring hospital admission and 21 percent of fatal crashes involve drowsy drivers.

Fatigue and Negligence 

Drowsy driving often constitutes evidence of negligence. When a person is a victim of a fatigued trucker’s negligent conduct, it is often possible to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain, suffering, lost wages and more. Survivors of those killed often seek monetary damages for burial expenses and loss of companionship as well. Trucking firms that make undue demands on drivers may be held responsible for such conduct when an accident leads to injury or death. 

If you or a family member is a victim of negligent truck driving, it is possible to review the details with an attorney focused on relevant aspects of the law. Our firm provides an initial consultation at no cost to you. We fight hard to get our clients the full compensation they deserve under all applicable laws. To learn more about our legal services, please contact us