After citing federal data showing “that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses” are particularly prone to drive while fatigued. The CDC also adds this alarming note: “These numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.”
A big rig operator who loses concentration or falls asleep behind the wheel presents a significant danger to themselves and to the property, health and lives of everyone else. The sheer size and weight of an 18-wheeler, dump truck, moving van or tour bus makes it a deadly weapon when it is allowed to run out of control.
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- The Frightening Scope of the Fatigued Truck Driver Problem
Elsewhere on our Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law firm website, we list the following indicators that a large truck or bus driver may be driving while fatigued:
- The vehicle is veering into other lanes.
- The vehicle is veering onto the shoulder.
- The vehicle is traveling at inconsistent speeds.
- The vehicle is on the road late at night or early in the morning.
- The vehicle is drifting from a lane and then overcorrecting.
Each of these risk factors can be minimized or eliminated entirely. Five steps practically all truck and bus drivers can take to stave off fatigue and protect themselves and others are to
- Follow the federal hours of service rules, which the Virginia Department of Transportation also enforces. The specifics change every few years, but the basic guidelines are to take regular breaks and get a full night’s sleep between long driving shifts.
- Prioritize safety over making money. This can seem like a tough call, but a wreck that results in injuries or loss of life will surely take higher financial and emotional tolls than any paycheck could cover.
- Map out rest stops along the planned route. Build time to eat, walk around and take a mental break into the schedule.
- Pull over when the eyelids start drooping, the head starts nodding and the yawning won’t stop. Pushing through fatigue will not work. The body will eventually get its required rest no matter what the mind dictates. Often, a 15-minute nap will provide enough a recharge to make it to the next scheduled break or overnight hotel.
- Keep accurate, legally mandated, logs. Falsifying the logbook is a crime, and it can lead to getting fired even if no charges are filed. Plus, putting breaks on paper is an excellent way of ensuring that downtime actually gets spent resting and sleeping.
Call it drowsy driving or fatigued driving, losing control after falling asleep at the wheel is a problem for all drivers, not just those operating semis and interstate buses. Following the steps listed above will prevent thousands of needless collisions each year, which will spare ten of thousands of people unnecessary injuries.