The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently released a report on the dangers of drowsy driving. It reported what many truck accident lawyers already knew about the impact of drowsy driving on truck accidents and that drowsy driving is a significant yet largely unmanaged problem on U.S. highways.
Personal injury lawyers handle many cases attributed to fatigue-related 18-wheeler accidents. Safety advocates, lawyers, and many others agree that the new report illustrates the need for better safety law compliance by big rigs and increased recognition of this significant problem.
Drowsy Driving And Trucking Accidents
The August 8, 2016 GHSA report includes information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This agency determined that as many as 80,000 crashes, 41,000 injuries, and 800 fatalities related to drowsy driving happen every year.1 The NTHSA also estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of all commercial truck and bus crashes each year are due to drowsy driving.2 Fatigue-related accidents cost more than $100,000,000 each year, not including property damage.2
Personal injury lawyers advise that drowsy driving is currently a leading cause of big rig accidents. Truck drivers who spend long hours on the road are especially susceptible to fatigue that can lead to devastating crashes. Weariness causes a number of negative effects that can lead to accidents, including reduced reaction time, impaired ability to make sound decisions, and a predisposition to long-term health problems that can also affect a driver’s ability to safely operate their vehicle.
Some of the more significant findings suggest that driving without adequate rest can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. After 18 hours without sleep, a truck driver can experience impairment similar to having a 0.05 percent alcohol level. After 21 hours without sleep, the impairment is similar to an alcohol level of 0.08 and the same as being legally drunk.2 Even when truck drivers do sleep, lack of quality rest and erratic work schedules can prevent them from resting enough to prevent exhaustion and fatigue-related impairment.
The Problem of Drowsy Driving
Despite the prevalence of fatigue-related crashes, there is no easy way for law enforcement to monitor drivers for drowsiness. There are no tests that can indicate when a driver is too sleepy to be safely on the road. While big rig operators do have some advantageous technology, including vehicle monitoring systems such as lane departure and blind spot warning systems, these things do not prevent accidents related to drowsy driving. The drivers themselves can prevent fatigue-related accidents by getting off the road and resting as necessary. Most truck accident lawyers agree that driver hours and schedules are a hotly debated issue today.
The significant findings presented in the GHSA report bring to light the importance of sleep and how a lack of adequate rest is responsible for thousands of deaths every year. Personal injury lawyers who see the effects of these accidents on a daily basis agree that there must be greater emphasis placed on this issue. While lawyers understand it may not be possible to keep all drowsy drivers off the roads, improved safety compliance from big rig operators and establishing other ways for drivers to get adequate sleep should be a priority for commercial trucking companies and the safety organizations that govern them!
Hildebrand & Wilson, Attorneys at Law
7930 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Driving Safely: Research on Drowsy Driving
2Governors Highway Safety Alliance (GHSA) - "Wake Up Call - Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do, August 2016