The latest data on fatal crashes that involve large trucks colliding with much smaller vehicles is alarming. At the end of 2019, more than 5,000 deaths occurred in crashes that involved significantly weightier motorized transports, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In accidents where victims survived, long-term and life-changing physical injuries were the outcome.
In nearly one-third of those collisions, one major factor played a role in victim deaths and serious injuries.
Truck drivers and microsleep
Many truck drivers remain unhealthy due to their eating habits and job-related stress that creates blood pressure problems. Health screenings to maintain their licenses are mandatory. Lately, one particular affliction that has received a great deal of focus is obstructive sleep apnea. However, tests have yet to be mandated involving what can become dangerous and deadly sleep-related fatigue.
Microsleep is a condition that involves poor sleep for an individual not getting enough oxygen during a sleep cycle. To compensate, truck drivers may fall into a state of microsleep for up to 30 seconds. Even though the driver seems to be awake, the brain is not at full capacity, putting the driver and those sharing the road at risk of colliding with a vehicle 20 to thirty times as heavy. The sudden realization of an upcoming vehicle requires significantly more distance to stop after traveling safely at highway speed.
In response to the growing fatigue problem in the trucking industry, the federal government has stepped in to establish hours of service rules to keep operators alert. The requirements include a maximum amount of time on the road and the number and length of rest periods.
Truck driver fatigue can be as dangerous as drunk driving
Truck driver fatigue is not a minor issue. In fact, many equate it to drunk driving in how it affects perception, coordination, and reaction times. All it takes is two nights with five hours or less of sleep.
Accidents involving professional truck drivers who drive will sleep-deprived may require the help of a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney.