A tractor trailer truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, making these trucks a deadly weapon in the hands of a driver who is tired or not paying attention. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) estimates that driver fatigue causes 100,000 crashes each year, resulting in 70,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.
Of course, the best advice is to avoid any driver – and particularly the drivers of large vehicles like semi trucks – who shows symptoms of driver fatigue. If you see another driver drifting out of their lane, swerving, tailgating, or yawning, steer clear and avoid a potential accident.
However, if you have already been involved in an accident with a fatigued driver, it is important to contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in these matters. The attorneys at Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, LLC can assist you in recovering the compensation that you deserve.
Driver Fatigue Regulations
The laws and regulations that apply to driver fatigue are complex and changing, so it is important that your attorney has experience in bringing personal injury lawsuits against fatigued drivers.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) has very explicit limits on the number of hours that a commercial driver may be driving or on duty. A violation of these limits can serve as the basis of a negligence or negligence per selawsuit. The three most important limitations are:
Driving Time – 49 C.F.R. § 395.3 limits the amount of time a commercial driver may drive. First, a driver may not drive more than a total of 11 hours during a 14-hour shift. Second, during the first 8 hours of their shift, the driver must take a 30 minute rest break. Third, drivers must take 34-hour rest breaks, called “restart periods,” once a week.
On-Duty Time – Drivers may be “on duty” even though they are not driving. For example, a driver may spend time fueling or inspecting their truck. Likewise, a driver may spend time waiting while the truck is loaded or unloaded. Drivers may not drive if they have already been on duty for 14 hours.
Maximum hours per week – Drivers may not drive more than 70 hours per week.
Despite these strict hours of service regulations, truckers are under pressure to drive for long hours and keep strict schedules. As a result, these regulations are commonly violated.
Effects of Fatigued Driving
Drivers who are fatigued can be just as dangerous as drivers who are drunk. Studies show that being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05%. And being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to having a BAC of .10%, which is above the legal driving limit in South Carolina.
Drowsy driving is particularly likely if the driver is:
A commercial driver;
A shift worker;
Has a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea;
Uses sedating medications; or
Does not get adequate sleep.
Don’t hesitate to contact one of our attorneys immediately if you have been injured at the hands of a drowsy driver. We are here to help you in any way that we can.