The arrest of a truck driver who traveled from Washington State to Massachusetts without any sleep recently made national headlines, leading to increasing concerns about the dangers of semi-truck driver fatigue.
Semi-truck drivers are usually paid based on miles, which is why they often attempt to travel long distances in short periods of time. Federal trucking regulations, however, limit the number of hours a driver can travel within a 24-hour period. Federal rules also mandate when, and for how long, a semi-truck driver must take breaks.
But despite federal regulations, semi-truck driver fatigue continues to be one of the common causes of truck accidents in Michigan. The sheer size and weight of a semi-truck compounds the drowsiness problem. Why? Because 80,000-pound trucks take much longer to stop than passenger vehicles or smaller trucks.
Simply put, when a semi-truck driver is fatigued, it can lead to tragedy. Studies show that sleep deprivation slows reaction time and limits decision-making abilities. And while a lack of sleep adversely affects us all, in the case of semi-truck drivers, the effects of fatigue also lead to an increased risk of a catastrophic accident.
Typically, semi-truck driver fatigue is caused by:
- insufficient sleep.
- exceeding the number of driving hours permitted.
- pressure to deliver the load.
- ignoring federal driving regulations.
But how does a motorist know when a semi-truck driver is fatigued? If the semi-truck is moving erratically or swerving into other lanes, this may be the result of a drowsy driver. If you witness this on the roadway, it is best to follow behind the truck at a safe distance or pass the truck and get out of the danger zone.
To help avoid a collision with a fatigued semi-truck driver, motorists should be aware of their vehicle’s location in relation to the semi-truck. Here are some tips for driving safely around large trucks.
- do not abruptly change lanes.
- give semi-trucks the right of way.
- drive at a safe speed and adjust your speed based on the weather conditions.
- always use turn signals.
- if possible, avoid driving alongside a semi-truck.
- do not cut off semi-trucks.
- remember: semi-truck drivers have blind spots — if you cannot see the driver in the truck’s outside mirrors, it is likely the driver cannot see you.
- do not closely follow or “tailgate” semi-trucks.
- maintain an even speed when passing a semi-truck.
Despite motorists taking every precaution, accidents still unfortunately happen. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, in 2015:
- large trucks were involved in 11,890 of the more than 297,000 Michigan traffic crashes.
- 85 people were killed and 2,901 people were injured in large vehicle crashes.
- more than 12,000 heavy truck and bus drivers were involved in crashes, with 11 of those drivers killed.
If you’ve been injured in a semi-truck accident, contact our Michigan semi-truck accident lawyers for a free consultation. Time is critical in these cases because an early investigation is often needed to protect your interests. With decades of experience handling Michigan semi-truck accident claims, the Sinas Dramis Law Firm will make sure you understand your rights and options.