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Semi-Truck Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue

Accidents with semi-trucks are incredibly dangerous. Because of their massive size, even minor accidents with semi-trucks can be fatal, especially for drivers of passenger vehicles and pedestrians. For this reason, there are many federal and state safety rules and regulations designed to reduce the number of semi-truck accidents. Despite these regulations, accidents with large trucks are still very common. In fact, in 2016, almost 4,000 people were killed in large truck accidents; 82 percent of those killed in these accidents were the occupants of passenger vehicles or pedestrians, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

There are many causes of these deadly crashes, such as driver error, equipment failure, poor weather conditions, improper loading of cargo, and unsafe driving by the passenger vehicles involved. One of the most dangerous causes of semi-truck accidents, however, is driver fatigue.

What is Driver Fatigue?

Driver fatigue occurs when a truck driver is too exhausted to perform the task of operating a large truck safely. Truck drivers can become fatigued by driving too many hours straight, without taking the proper time to rest, as well as not taking enough time off between long hauls to fully recover. Fatigued drivers can be just as dangerous as drivers who are distracted or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When a driver is fatigued, they’re less able to react effectively to hazards on the road, weather conditions, or unsafe driving by passenger vehicles. Because of the sheer size of the vehicles truck drivers are operating, this lack of control can easily result in tragedy. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that 30 to 40 percent of all semi-truck accidents involve some element of driver fatigue.

How Dangerous is Driver Fatigue?

Every year there are thousands of fatalities caused by accidents involving large trucks. As we previously mentioned, the NTSB estimates that driver fatigue contributes to as much as 40 percent of all semi-truck accidents. In these accidents, the danger is greatest for the occupants of the passenger vehicles as well as any pedestrians who may be present. In 2016, 66 percent of those killed in semi-truck accidents were occupants of passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. 17 percent of those killed were the occupants of the large trucks.

What’s Being Done to Prevent Driver Fatigue?

Many semi-truck drivers are paid by the mile or the load. They are under a lot of pressure to deliver their loads as quickly as possible. This pressure has often led to drivers operating for an unsafe number of consecutive hours, which leads to fatigue. For this reason, lawmakers at the federal and state levels have implemented a number of regulations to restrict the number of hours truck drivers can operate. For example, drivers may drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours after being off duty for ten consecutive hours. Additionally, drivers are limited to 60 hours on duty in one week or 70 hours on duty for eight days running. It’s the responsibility of the trucking companies to ensure their drivers are following these rules. Unfortunately, there are times where drivers violate these rules.

Contact an Experienced Semi-Truck Attorney

To reduce the risk of being involved in an accident with a large truck, it’s best to drive as safely as possible around them. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a semi-truck and believe the truck driver was fatigued, don’t hesitate. Contact the experienced semi-truck attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield right away. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have during a free consultation and, if necessary, represent your case in court. With over 70 collective years of legal and trial experience, the attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are well-equipped to handle your case.