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Drowsy driving is the leading cause of truck accidents among commercial drivers. 

Drowsy Driving: The Statistics 

When it comes to driving long distances, safety is of the utmost importance. Especially if you’re hauling an eighteen-wheel commercial truck. Not only is your own safety at risk, but the safety of everyone else on the road as well. Among the most common causes for truck accidents, drowsy driving makes the list. 

In a paper written by the Journal of Public Health Policy, “Long Hours and Fatigue: A Survey of Tractor-Trailer Drivers,” they interviewed 1,249 commercial drivers from Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma, and Oregon on driving while drowsy. 

Based on the survey taken in 1990 and 1991, commercial drivers were not permitted to drive for any longer than ten hours at a time. In between ten hour drives they were required to have at least an eight-hour break before returning to their drive. They were also not permitted to work more than 70 hours in an eight-day period. These laws have changed since to allow for a longer period of driving. 

According to the Journal of Public Health Policy, about 75% of the interviewee’s stated that they have broken the time constraints and driven more in a day or in the eight-day period that legally allowed.  

About 66% also stated that they regularly break these rules and drive more than the regulated amounts. This means that more than half of commercial truck drivers are driving more than ten hours a day or more than 70 hours a week. 

The Most Common Cause of Truck Accidents: Drowsy Driving

Thousands of people die each year in truck accidents. In 2018 alone, 4,136 people died in large truck crashes. 16% of these deaths were truck drivers or passengers, while 67% were drivers or passengers of other cars. The remaining 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. 

In a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, they reported that 13% of accidents are caused by drowsy or fatigued driving. That’s approximately 18,000 trucks involved in a fatal or injury crash during the study period. 

Drowsy driving accounts for 13% of all truck accidents and poses a high relative risk. Its relative risk is higher than having brake problems or traveling too fast for conditions, which together account for about 50% of all truck accidents. While drowsy driving doesn’t account for a majority of accidents, it poses a much higher risk

What Causes Drowsy Driving?

The number one cause of drowsy driving, as found by Sleep Medicine, is sleep loss. It’s imperative to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, because truck drivers work such long hours, and often don’t follow the regulations, they end up not taking this time off, or not getting this required amount of sleep each night. 

Sleep Medicine also states that job-related sleep restriction is also a cause of drowsy driving. It states, “Shift workers, as well as those working long hours, extended shifts or more than one job, are especially prone to experience sleepiness.” 

On top of not getting enough sleep, truck drivers work long shifts, which can also account for their sleepiness behind the wheel. Some truckers may even resort to drug use to maintain alertness, which creates its own kind of danger.

Commercial Trucking Regulations: How Much Can You Drive? 

Commercial truck drivers are required to follow a strict schedule set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

A commercial truck driver is allowed a period of fourteen consecutive hours during which they are only allowed to drive up to eleven hours. Between each fourteen-hour period, known as the fourteen-hour driving window, they must have been off duty for ten or more consecutive hours. This fourteen-hour period begins when the driver starts any kind of work.

For example, if a driver comes back to work at 4:00am after taking 10 consecutive hours off, they are not allowed to do any driving after 6:00pm that day until they’ve had another ten consecutive hours off. 

Within that fourteen-hour window, there’s also an eleven-hour driving limit. During this eleven-hour limit, the truck driver is only allowed to complete eleven hours of driving. 

Drivers are also required to take a thirty-minute break after eight hours of consecutive driving. If all of these regulations are followed, drowsy driving shouldn’t be as much of a problem. When these regulations are not followed, a trucker may be held negligent for an accident they cause.

How Can a Truck Lawyer Help? 

If you have been injured in a semi-truck accident, the first thing you should do is contact a lawyer who’s experienced in semi-truck related accident injury. We advise against handling the case on your own and would much rather you reach out for help. Insurance claims and legalities can be tricky, especially when it comes to determining liability in an accident caused by a drowsy trucker. If you’d like to avoid your insurance company denying your claim, please reach out to our experienced team.

An injury attorney can look at your case at no cost to determine a fair damage settlement. You also won’t have to pay anything out of pocket, as they work on a contingency fee basis. They’ll only take a percentage of your settlement once the claim is complete. This means they won’t get paid at all if they don’t win your case. 

If you have been injured in a truck accident in the Gainesville, Florida area, contact The Eberst Law Firm. We are ready and eager to handle your case and help you get back on your feet. You can contact us online or call us at 772-225-4900


About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at The Eberst Law Firm who have extensive experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida. This article was also extensively researched to ensure that all information is accurate and up to date. If you want to know more about the author of this page, view our our attorney bios here.