Researchers estimate that every year, more than 100,000 accidents in Florida and across the U.S. are caused by drowsy driving. Fatigue can affect anyone, but it’s most often found in commercial truck drivers. This is especially bad news because truck accidents usually lead to catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Commercial truckers are known for working long shifts. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has instituted an hours of service schedule allowing them 14 consecutive on-duty hours each day. The organization requires truckers to take a break within the first eight hours of duty and to remain off duty for at least 10 hours before starting their next shift. Truckers carrying cargo are allowed 11 consecutive hours of service.
These guidelines are meant to keep truckers safe. However, tight deadlines and pressure from employers lead many truckers to ignore the rules and overwork themselves. Some companies offer incentives for truckers to deliver cargo ahead of schedule, further encouraging risky behavior.
The effects of drowsiness are similar to those of intoxication: impaired cognition and judgment, slower reaction times, and slower reflexes. Drivers can fall asleep at any time, though they may presume otherwise and try to wake themselves up with caffeine and energy drinks. Also, trying to stay awake only takes their attention away from the road.
When drowsy driving is found to be a factor in a big rig accident, the victim will be eligible for compensation. A successful claim may be difficult without legal representation, though. Accident attorneys may be able to evaluate the claim, estimate a settlement, and have an in-house team of investigators gather all the proof of negligence. This could include police reports and the truck log. Attorneys might then handle the negotiation phase with the trucking company. If the company refuses to pay out, the client and the attorney may consider litigation.