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Combating Truck Accidents Caused By Driver Fatigue

We often discuss the causes of Missouri tractor trailer accidents on this blog and one of the major problems continues to be truck driver fatigue. Whether it comes from lack of sleep or just a driver exerting himself further than his body can handle, fatigue can have deadly consequences when mixed with 80,000 pounds of freight.

According to the NTSB, one in three tractor trailer accidents are caused by driver fatigue. This includes both fatal and non-fatal accidents. If these estimates are true, that means there are over 160,000 truck accidents that could have been prevented had the driver not been fatigued.

Even more startling is the number of truck drivers that admit to actually falling asleep at the wheel. Some studies claim this number is as high as one in five drivers having fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in their driving careers.

A driver doesn’t actually have to fall asleep to put himself and others in danger. Being heavily fatigued limits your reaction time and attention span as well as making it harder to stay in a lane. Perhaps you may have even felt this yourself in your own car when driving late at night. While driving in this condition is not safe in any vehicle, the large size and limited mobility of commercial shipping trucks requires that your mind be totally focused to avoid any problems.

You are also more susceptible to a condition commonly called “road hypnosis” when you are fatigued. Drivers on long road trips often report that they simply don’t remember long stretches of the drive because they were in a type of psychological autopilot. Your conscious mind can separate from simple sub conscious tasks using an ability psychologists call automaticity. A driver’s automatic responses may be able to keep a car on the roadway for short stretches, but if something unexpected happens, like a sudden traffic backup, the conscious mind may not be able to take over and stop the vehicle in time.

Federal regulations are in place that limit the number of consecutive hours a driver can be behind the wheel, and these restrictions may be expanded further if regulators feel it would be in the interest of public safety. Developing these rules can be tricky, though, because if you limit driver’s hours too much, companies argue they will be forced to hire more inexperienced drivers which may also increase accidents.

If you have been involved in an accident with a tractor trailer and suspect the driver was driving while dangerously fatigued, contact a Missouri truck accident lawyer. An experienced attorney will be able investigate the driver’s log books and company shipping records to determine if the driver violated any regulations and if these regulations contributed to the accident.