We’ve mentioned the danger fatigued truckers pose to innocent motorists in describing the Tracy Morgan tractor-trailer case. That case attracted national attention because the famed comedian was injured. What didn’t make the nightly newscasts was the fact that drowsy driving accidents occur every day.
The 2015 South Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Manual describes the problem in lurid, sobering detail, so truckers know— before they ever get a license—how much driver fatigue puts everyone in danger.
What Is Fatigued Driving, And How Does It Impact Safety?
The manual defines “fatigue” as physical or mental tiredness. Fatigue is every bit as dangerous as alcohol and drugs. Fatigue increases the risk of a crash for any driver, not just big rigs, by causing:
- Impaired vision and judgment
- Mistakes related to speed and distance.
- Inability to see and react to hazards on the road.
- Disabled critical thinking (“Is it safe to pass on this two-lane road, or not?”)
- Falling asleep at the wheel—the worst consequence of all. Even a few seconds of dozing off can have lethal consequences, especially if you’re driving a semitrailer.
How Prevalent Is Fatigued Driving?
Drowsy driving is common enough to make you shudder. The manual declares fatigued or drowsy driving to be a leading cause of traffic collisions. It states that drowsy driving causes an estimated 100,000 crashes a year, citing a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) study.
Shockingly, over one-third of American drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll. If we extend the study’s results to the whole U.S. population, that means 103 million people have nodded off while driving!
Who’s at the Highest Risk to Drive Fatigued?
Studies show with undeniable clarity the highest risk group is truckers—who also drive the highest risk vehicles, often topping out at over 80,000 pounds. Combine that with highway speeds, and a drowsy trucker is a ticking time bomb. Here are some scary facts from the manual about fatigued 18-wheeler drivers:
- At least 15 percent of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue.
- The profile for the highest risk of sleeping at the wheel includes young males, long-haul drivers, and folks with untreated sleep disorders or even short-term sleep deprivation. Some truckers fit all three.
- Drivers are less alert at night, especially after midnight when they’ve been driving a long time. Truckers do that more than most drivers.
A 1996 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA]study found truckers average less than five hours of sleep a day. Drowsy driving probably caused over half the crashes resulting in a trucker’s death, according to a 1990 National Transportation Safety Board study. Worse, NHTSA reported in 1994 that for each trucker fatality, another three to four people die.
Here's two shocking facts on how the federal government views truckers driving fatigued. One, in a study of fatal trucking crash causes using 2017 data, the FMCSA labeled fatigued driving "impaired"- the same as if truckers drove drunk or high! Two, of the top 10 causes of fatal tractor-trailer crashes, that study found impaired driving to be number four.
Don’t Fall Prey Once, or Even Twice
Drowsy driving kills, no matter the size of your vehicle. When in doubt, don’t start the ignition. And if you’re the victim of a crash caused by a drowsy driver—especially if you’re concerned that fatigue caused a tractor-trailer driver to hurt you—don’t be victimized twice by letting the insurance company take advantage of you.
You owe it to yourself to find out your rights from a professional trained to protect them…one who knows how to handle the insurance company so you don’t have to worry about the hassle or short-changing yourself with a cheap settlement you regret forever.
If you’re the victim of a trucking or car accident, feel free to email us or call us at 888-230-1841 or 864-582-0416. We’d like to schedule a meeting at your convenience for a free discussion on getting your side of the story told. For more information on traffic collisions, you can also check out our free book or check out other articles on our site, which has lots of information folks want to know about their cases.