Many trucking companies and employers place pressure on commercial truck drivers to cover as many miles as possible in the shortest conceivable timeframe. A failure to meet company expectations may jeopardize a driver’s earnings or employment. Such factors may contribute to commercial operators remaining behind the wheel even when they are too drowsy to drive safely.
One method drivers may use to combat driver drowsiness is talking on a cell phone. Unfortunately, this is not only prohibited, but also presents a number of additional safety concerns.
Dangers of Driving Drowsy: Why Truckers are Especially Vulnerable
The National Sleep Foundation reports a AAA study that found roughly one out of six fatal truck accidents and one out of eight truck accidents in the United States can be attributed to drowsy driving. Drowsy driving was linked to more than 50 percent of truck driver deaths in one National Transportation Safety Board report.
Commercial truck drivers may be especially vulnerable to the effects of drowsy driving. According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study, truckers slept less than five hours a day, on average. Medical studies have shown humans need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each day/night to function at peak levels.
Sleepiness and exhaustion have been linked to:
- decrease in reaction time;
- decreased vigilance;
- diminished motor coordination; and
- compromised decision making.
Further, the FMCSA reports as many as one-third of commercial drivers suffer from sleep apnea. Left untreated, this breathing condition can significantly increase a person’s risk for day or night accidents.
Commercial truck drivers legally can drive no more than 11 hours after spending 10 hours off duty, according to FMCSA laws. Also, they may not drive beyond 14 hours after coming on duty after 10 hours off of duty. It is not unheard of for a driver to falsify driver logs in order to circumvent these hours-of-service regulations. As such, an untold number of fatigued commercial drivers could be on the road at any given time.
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Cell phone use as a response to drowsy driving?
Commercial truck drivers may turn to activities such as talking on a cell phone in order to “stay awake” and distract from feelings of fatigue and drowsiness. In fact, a 2013 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety demonstrated a link between drowsy driving and cell phone use. The study showed 44 percent of drivers who admitted to regularly using a cell phone while driving also admitted to driving while drowsy.
While a cell phone conversation may momentarily mask symptoms of drowsiness, it cannot counteract fatigue or increase a driver’s level of alertness. In fact, the activity may compound the potential risk for an accident by combining sleep deprivation with driver distraction.
Regardless of the intention, cell phone use is banned for certain commercial operators. In 2011, the FMCSA outlawed the use of handheld cell phones for interstate truck drivers.
A victim may sue a truck driver or company that engages in negligent and illegal behavior, such as distracted driving and exceeding federal hours-of-service regulations. Such a claim depends on the collection of evidence, such as driver logs and cell phone records. Learn more during a free case evaluation. Call Bressman Law today at 877-538-1116.