Drowsy truckers may ‘save time,’ but cost lives

Bored man at the wheel of his car sleepingTruck drivers are required to keep a logbook to record their work hours for the day. According to federal law, they are only allowed to spend 14 hours working and 11 hours on the road each day. However, most truck drivers are paid by the mile, and when they are held up because of traffic or some other delay, their paychecks take a cut. It is this type of trucker negligence that may have led to a recent accident in Elko, Nevada.

The Las Vegas Sun reported that the driver claimed a traffic accident caused a back-up on his route. He decided to continue driving after his legal hourly limit had been reached. When he came across a vehicle and a tow truck on the side of the road, he was unable to stop in time. He alleges that he hit his brakes 200 feet before the collision. However, as many a Las Vegas personal injury attorney knows, an alert truck driver going 55 mph requires nearly 300 feet to come to a complete stop. The two people in the car and the man in the tow truck were killed.

Lack of sleep and the effects on the body

The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine estimates that about 10 percent of tractor trailer operators sleep fewer than five hours per night. Falling asleep behind the wheel is one of the dangers a sleepy truck driver will face, but it is not the only one. Reaction time, coordination, decision-making processes and other cognitive functions are directly affected by a lack of sleep. A drowsy truck driver puts everyone on the road at risk.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers in the Netherlands discovered that an individual who drives for three hours in the dark exhibits the same performance level as an individual with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent. After 4.5 hours of driving in the dark, a driver operates on the same level as a drunk driver with a BAC of .10 percent. A Las Vegas personal injury attorney may express concern about the threat truck drivers pose at night.

Drowsy driving accidents are underreported

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that collisions caused by drowsy driving often go unreported. Drivers may not realize that they are tired, and when the person behind the wheel falls asleep, there are often no witnesses. Many individuals are not willing to admit that they were nodding off when the accident occurred. After a crash, a drowsy driver is typically more alert because of the adrenaline rush. An observer may not be able to tell there was a drowsiness issue at that point.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lists 426 large truck accidents in Nevada in 2013, and the size and weight of tractor trailers often make the outcomes much more serious than those involving only passenger vehicles. A Las Vegas personal injury attorney may be able to provide legal advocacy for those who are injured in truck accidents involving drowsy drivers.