Rhode Island Truck Driver Fatigue Accidents

driver fatigue road signDriver fatigue is a contributing factor in many traffic accidents. Since commercial truck drivers are under enormous pressure to meet their deadlines, they can be especially tempted to drive the maximum number of miles behind the wheel each day. But when a fatigued driver is operating a multi-ton vehicle, they put themselves and everyone around them at serious risk of catastrophic injury.

While various federal regulations discourage drowsy driving and reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue, unfortunately, truck driver fatigue accidents are still alarmingly prevalent. If you have been injured in an accident in Rhode Island caused by a fatigued truck driver, you have the right to demand compensation for your injuries and other crash-related losses.

At Bottaro Law, our dedicated personal injury attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for injured Rhode Islanders. We are ready to put this experience to work for you.

Contact our firm today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you demand the recovery you deserve.

How Dangerous Is It to Drive a Truck While Tired?

We all need sleep, and our bodies run on preset cycles of wakefulness and sleep known as circadian rhythms. Commercial drivers commonly work long hours and odd schedules. They often have to overcome their natural sleep cycles to keep up with their jobs. Habitually losing even one or two hours of sleep can lead to chronic fatigue, placing drivers and other road users at risk.

According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsiness increases the likelihood of traffic collisions because it impairs:

  • Reaction time
  • Spatial awareness
  • Attention span
  • Information processing

These impairments increase the risk of truck accidents because they reduce truck drivers’ margin of error. When a driver is operating a vehicle several times larger and heavier than a standard passenger vehicle, even a split second can mean the difference between an uneventful commute and disaster.

Drowsy Driving Truck Accident Statistics

The following statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) highlight the dangers of driver fatigue:

  • The cognitive effects of just 18 hours of sleep deprivation are similar to the impact of a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.
  • Drivers are three times more likely to be involved in accidents if they are drowsy.
  • Researchers estimate that 328,000 drowsy driving accidents occur annually and that these wrecks occur roughly 350 percent more often than reported.
  • In one survey, one in every 25 drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once within the past 30 days.

A drowsy driving truck accident can occur whenever and wherever commercial vehicles are operated. However, NHTSA data suggests these crashes are widespread:

  • Between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m.
  • During the late afternoon hours
  • When drivers are traveling alone with no passengers
  • On roads and highways in rural areas

Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations

The FMCSA has developed a variety of regulations to discourage commercial drivers from driving while drowsy and reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents. These hours of service (HOS) regulations require truck drivers to:

  • Drive no more than 11 hours each day following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Refrain from driving beyond the 14th straight hour after coming on duty after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Take a 30-minute break after any period of driving for 8 cumulative hours.
  • Drive no more than 60 hours within 7 consecutive working days for carriers that do not operate 7 days per week.
  • Drive no more than 70 hours within 8 consecutive working days for carriers that operate 7 days per week.

Investigating a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident

Unlike alcohol or drug intoxication, no test can prove that a truck driver was drowsy at the time of a truck accident. However, investigators can often draw reliable conclusions when crashes have specific characteristics, such as:

  • The accident occurred late at night, early in the morning, or late in the afternoon.
  • The accident was a high-speed collision resulting in severe injuries and damage.
  • The accident occurred on a high-speed road, especially in rural areas.
  • There is no evidence of the driver attempting to avoid the crash (for example, skid marks).
  • An electronic logging device or black box indicates that the truck driver did not slow down or swerve before the collision.
  • The truck driver was alone in their vehicle with no passengers.
  • The truck driver’s HOS records show inconsistencies or violations.

Who Could Be Liable for a Truck Crash Due to Fatigue?

The truck driver is often primarily or solely liable for an accident caused by drowsy driving. Each commercial driver is responsible for understanding and obeying HOS regulations and other FMCSA rules, which include recognizing when fatigue dangerously impairs their driving abilities.

However, truck drivers are not the only ones responsible for their on-the-job actions. If a trucking company explicitly or implicitly encourages its drivers to ignore HOS regulations, it may be vicariously liable if drivers work themselves to exhaustion and cause drowsy driving truck wrecks.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

The FMCSA provides the following tips for avoiding fatigue behind the wheel and preventing drowsy driving accidents:

  • Get enough sleep each night. Experts typically suggest getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat as healthy as possible. Skipping meals and eating unhealthy foods can lead to premature fatigue or sleep disturbances.
  • Avoid certain types of drugs. Medications such as tranquilizers, narcotics, benzodiazepines, and cold or allergy drugs can induce sleepiness.
  • Look out for signs of drowsiness. Warning signs such as repeated yawning or blurred vision may indicate that it’s time to rest.
  • Refrain from stimulants and other quick fixes. Caffeinated drinks, cigarettes, and other stimulants mask fatigue and give drowsy drivers a false sense of alertness, increasing the risk of accidents.

How Our Truck Accident Lawyers Help Victims of Drowsy Driving Crashes

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident caused by a drowsy driver, the Rhode Island injury attorneys at Bottaro Law can help you by:

  • Answering your questions and explaining your options in a free consultation
  • Helping you access the healthcare services you need
  • Investigating the truck accident for evidence of driver fatigue
  • Investigating the trucking company for evidence of HOS violations
  • Calculating the full extent of the losses that you suffered because of the accident
  • Communicating with representatives of the trucking and insurance companies on your behalf
  • Negotiating aggressively to demand fair compensation for your losses
  • Representing you in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached