Driving for an extended period of time can cause mental and physical fatigue for any motorist. When that fatigued motorist is a commercial truck driver exhausted from long hours behind the wheel, the results can be catastrophic. A collision between an 18-wheeler and a smaller vehicle can lead to severe injuries or death for occupants of the passenger car.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, driver fatigue is a factor in 30-40% of truck crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that up to 13% of commercial truckers are tired/drowsy at the time of an accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that:
- Up to 6,000 deaths annually result from fatigued driving.
- Commercial truckers are much likely than other motorists to drive when fatigued or exhausted.
Why a Trucker Might Be Tired
Federal guidelines limiting the consecutive hours commercial truckers may drive still allow 11-14 consecutive hours behind the wheel. Furthermore, truckers often have tight delivery deadlines to meet. They’re regularly delayed by road construction, heavy traffic, or accidents and have to make up for lost time. To stay on schedule, they might drive at higher speeds and for more consecutive hours than the law permits. When they do sleep, they might do so briefly in sleeper cabs that aren’t as comfortable or restful as a bed. The resulting fatigue has negative effects on the tired trucker’s driving:
- Drowsiness behind the wheel
- Decreased vision
- Slower reaction time
- Impaired coordination
- Poor judgment
For these reasons, driving while fatigued can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Another problem is the use of stimulants among truckers. Nearly one-third of truck drivers admit to taking amphetamines and other such drugs that keep them conscious and on the road but still sleep-deprived, with poor judgment and an increased tendency to take risks. To make matters worse:
- Truckers operating in only one state aren’t subject to federal trucking guidelines.
- Truckers who are paid by the mile want to cover as many miles as possible, no matter how long they must drive to do so.
If you’ve been injured in a truck crash due to a trucker’s drowsy driving, the burden is on you to prove that driver’s state of fatigue. Because truck accident claims are often expensive, with major property damage and high medical bills, the trucker’s insurance company might dispute your claim or offer a low settlement unless you can show strong evidence that the driver was fatigued and thus liable. Presenting such evidence convincingly often requires the services of an experienced truck accident lawyer.
While you focus on getting better, your attorney can work to establish the fatigued trucker’s negligence and get you fair compensation by:
- Hiring an accident reconstructionist to show evidence of drowsy driving
- Examining the results of post-accident drug tests for evidence of stimulants in the trucker’s bloodstream
- Interviewing witnesses who observed the at-fault driver’s general condition before the crash or know how late the driver was up the night before
- Obtaining data from a manual logbook or an electronic monitoring system (“black box”) that shows how many hours a driver has been behind the wheel
- Examining toll, gas, and hotel/motel receipts, as well as credit/debit card records that show miles traveled and thus hours driven in a given time period
- Checking bills of lading that show where/when the truck was loaded and help to establish hours of driving between locations
- Getting footage from nearby security or red light video cameras in the vicinity of the crash to check for evidence of fatigued driving
- Identifying multiple defendants against whom you can file claims or suits if one defendant’s coverage limits are too low to cover your damages, such as the driver’s employer who might be responsible for a delivery schedule requiring too many hours behind the wheel in order to meet deadlines
Have You Been Injured by a Fatigued Trucker in a South Dakota Accident?
An experienced truck accident lawyer can help you prove the at-fault trucker’s negligence and liability. Contact us online or call us at 605-306-4100 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.