Drowsy driving can lead to catastrophic truck accidents

Trucking may be an essential component of interstate commerce in our nation, but it is not without its dangers. According to one study, 13 percent of truckers involved in a truck accident were fatigued when the collision occurred. Truck driver fatigue is a serious issue in the trucking industry in Arizona and nationwide. It not only puts the truckers' lives at risk, but it also puts the lives of all others on the road at risk. In fact, the statistics surrounding drowsy driving and operators of commercial vehicles are sobering.

It is understandable that a driver who has been on the road for a long time without a rest break can become fatigued. However, even the first hour after waking up can be dangerous. Sleep inertia occurs when a person first wakes up. It can negatively affect a motorist's memory, reaction time, cognitive functioning and more. It especially affects truckers who sleep in the sleeper berth of their vehicles. In fact, one study reports that the chance of being involved in a safety-critical event is greatest within the first hour of being on the road after waking up.

Certain medications can make a person drowsy. According to one study, 17 percent of truckers involved in a collision had used an "over-the-counter" drug when the accident occurred. Cold medicines can especially make a motorist feel sleepy.

Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Research has shown that a person who has been awake for 18 hours is at the same risk for an accident as a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. One study from 2005 reports that three-quarters of commercial motor vehicle drivers stated they had made at least one mistake while behind the wheel because they were fatigued. Federal regulations mandate that truckers take rest breaks after a certain number of hours behind the wheel, but many truckers ignore these regulations.

In the end, truckers must make sure they get enough sleep. The sheer size of a semi-truck makes any accident involving one catastrophic. No amount of coffee, fresh air or loud music can compensate for a lack of sleep. Those involved in crashes involving drowsy truck drivers may want to determine what steps they can take to hold the responsible parties accountable.

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