Drowsy Truck Driving Accident Lawyer
It’s reasonable to expect truck drivers to be fully rested and alert when they get behind the wheel of their rigs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Driver fatigue is cited as a contributing factor in 13 percent of truck accidents in one study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Many safety advocates believe that statistic is significantly underreported.
Truck drivers are at an especially high risk for fatigue-related accidents. Many are behind the wheel for hours at a time on long, monotonous stretches of road. Working late and early shifts can also interfere with the body’s natural sleep and wake cycle. But no matter the reason, it’s clear that South Carolinians are at risk of serious injury or wrongful death if they’re hit by a fatigued truck driver.
Were you or a family member hurt in a drowsy driving truck accident? At David Blackwell Law, we understand how catastrophic these types of collisions can be. They can also be legally complex. Let our Lancaster truck accident attorneys review your case in a free consultation.
Call or contact us now to learn about your rights to compensation.
How Dangerous Is It to Drive While Tired?
Driving while tired ranks as one of the riskiest decisions a motorist can make. In fact, sleep experts say fatigued driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Like alcohol, being drowsy can severely impact a driver’s ability behind the wheel. Fatigue reduces reaction times and impairs judgment. Being overtired also lowers inhibitions, meaning that truckers might make riskier decisions than they normally would while driving.
Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations
FMCSA sets limitations on the number of hours that a truck driver may be on duty before taking a mandatory rest break. These hours-of-service regulations include:
- Drivers may drive no more than 11 total hours, after consecutively having at least 10 hours off duty.
- Truckers are not allowed to drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour of coming on duty, after at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty breaks cannot extend this 14-hour duty period.
- Drivers may only operate their rigs if at least eight hours have elapsed since the driver’s last off-duty period or last sleeper berth rest period of 30 minutes or more.
- Truckers cannot drive after being on duty for 60 hours consecutively for seven days, or if they have logged 70 hours over the previous eight consecutive days. A seven-or-eight-day period may restart after a driver has taken at least 34 consecutive hours off the clock.
- Drivers using a sleeper berth must spend eight consecutive hours (at a minimum) in their berth during a 10-hour off-duty period, in addition to two consecutive hours in the berth, off the clock, or some combination thereof.
- Drivers are required to log their time on duty, behind the wheel, off duty, and (if applicable) in their berth. This log can be inspected upon request by law enforcement or state or federal regulators.
Investigating a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident
Proving that a truck driver was fatigued or drowsy behind the wheel when an accident occurred can be a difficult task. The shock of impact in a vehicle crash can often provide people with a jolt of adrenaline that eliminates any physical or cognitive signs of drowsiness.
However, people who are injured in truck accidents can still recover evidence that indicates a truck driver may have been driving while drowsy, such as:
- The driver’s logs: If the driver’s hours of service add up to put him or her over the legal limits, it can serve as evidence of fatigue played a role in the wreck. Failure to record the log or signs that the log has been altered may also indicate an effort to cover up the driver’s failure to comply with hours-of-service regulations.
- The truck’s vehicle data recorder: This equipment records information such as steering, acceleration, and braking inputs, which might show that a truck driver failed to brake for a crash or drove in a way that is consistent with a fatigued driver.
- Witness statements: Although drowsy driving and drunk driving have similar effects on the body, the accidents can look quite different. Drunk drivers tend to drive slowly and fail to keep up with the flow of traffic. By contrast, drowsy driving accidents tend to show that the driver was traveling at normal speeds at the time of collision.
Why Are Fatigued Truck Driver Accidents Happening?
Drowsy driving truck accidents can have several causes. One recent study found that long hours, an unhealthy lifestyle, and sleep problems were the main reasons why truck drivers fall asleep behind the wheel.
Some drivers fail to give themselves adequate opportunity for rest and sleep by violating to observe the federal hours-of-service requirements. That’s not always due entirely to driver negligence. Truckers are sometimes encouraged by their employers to violate the hours-of-service rules in order to meet strict delivery schedules. In these cases, the trucking company could be held liable if an employee falls asleep while driving.
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents
The only way to avoid causing a drowsy driving accident is to ensure you get adequate sleep. For most adults, that means seven to eight hours per night.
Tips that truck drivers can use to avoid falling asleep while driving include:
- Follow the federal hours of service regulations.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages before going to sleep. They can make it more difficult to fall asleep and interfere with the quality of your rest.
- If possible, avoid being on the road during hours when the body is naturally sleepier (midnight to 6 a.m., and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.).
- Check any medications to see if drowsiness is a side effect.
If you begin to feel sleepy, pull into a rest stop, drink a cup or two of coffee, and take a short 20 to 30-minute nap. This can help increase alertness, but only for short periods of time. It should only be used to get you to a safe destination for a full rest period.
As another motorist on the road, you can avoid getting into accidents with drowsy truck drivers by looking out for signs of a fatigued driving, such as:
- Weaving in and out of the lane, or drifting over road lines or rumble strips
- Not maintaining a regular speed with the flow of traffic
- A driver nodding off or falling asleep while driving
If you see a truck that you suspect is being operated by a drowsy truck driver, you should avoid the truck, exit the road where it is safe to do so, and call 911 to report the truck and let law enforcement handle the situation.
When to Contact a Lawyer After a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident with a drowsy driver, you need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights to compensation.
Waiting too long to hire an attorney for your case may mean losing important evidence, such as driver logs or truck data recordings. Such evidence may ultimately be deleted or destroyed in the normal course of the truck company’s operations. But if you get a lawyer on your case quickly, he or she can contact the company and file a preservation request so that the evidence isn’t erased.
Unfortunately, there are dishonest trucking companies that have been found to alter or falsify data to limit their liability for an accident. Getting a lawyer on your case immediately can help minimize those risks.
In South Carolina, you must file a truck accident claim within three years of the wreck. Failure to file on time could forfeit your right to any compensation at all.
How Can David Blackwell Law Help Me?
If you were in a collision that may have been caused by a drowsy truck driver in South Carolina, you need experienced legal representation that gives you and your family the best opportunity to recover financial compensation. Put David Blackwell Law to work for you.
- A skilled truck accident lawyer from our law firm will:
- Thoroughly investigate the truck accident to recover evidence showing that the truck driver was fatigued at the time of the crash
- Gather witness statements and expert testimony to build a strong, persuasive legal case
- Negotiate with the truck company and its insurer(s) to reach a settlement that provides you with fair and full compensation
- Prepare your case to go to trial, if that gives you the best chance of recovering the money you need and deserve
Hurt in Lancaster, SC? Call Our Drowsy Driving Truck Accident Lawyer Today
All initial consultations at David Blackwell Law are free. Don’t wait another moment to get on the path to compensation. Call or contact us now.