Drowsy and fatigued driving is a major problem in the United States. According to a Harvard School of Medicine Study, fatigue-related crashes account for approximately 1.2 million accidents and over half a million injuries each year. 60,000 of those injuries are serious and debilitating, and 8,000 of them result in a fatality. The Harvard study also cites a Department of Transportation survey that found that 7.5 million drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past month, and another 7.5 million admit to having fallen asleep within the past 2 to 6 months.
Drowsy driving happens when a motorist is tired or fatigued, does not have enough sleep, is driving under the influence of alcohol or other certain types of substances, and various other factors. Those who are most susceptible to driving while drowsy include:
- Male drivers between the ages of 16 and 29;
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders;
- Those who work long hours and have long work weeks;
- Individuals who work evening and overnight shifts; and
- Commercial truck drivers.
Those who drive when they are drowsy or fatigued put themselves and others in danger. When someone is driving while in this condition, they have slowed reaction times and they are not able to pay proper attention to the road. This frequently results in poor driving decisions and the inability to handle adverse conditions that may arise.
Fatigued Driving in the Trucking Industry
Those who work in the trucking industry are among the most likely to be driving while drowsy or fatigued. Truckers put in long hours during the week, and much of this time is spent driving during the evening and overnight hours. A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study also found that nearly one-third of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. The study went on to say that those with untreated sleep apnea have a harder time staying awake, focusing your eyes, and reacting properly while driving.
The problem in the industry is made worse by the pressure truckers are frequently under to deliver their loads on time. Although the FMCSA has strict hours of service guidelines that mandate drivers to take a break after a certain number of hours on the road, drivers are often faced with the choice of either violating these regulations or failing to meet unrealistic deadlines imposed by their employers. Although they know they should take a break, they often turn to coffee, energy drinks, and other substances to help them stay awake.
Drowsy Driving and Commercial Trucking Accidents
When a big rig truck is involved in an accident, it can result in disastrous consequences. Tractor-trailers that are fully loaded typically weigh 80,000 pounds or more, making them 20 to 30 times heavier than a regular passenger vehicle. Because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicle, it can do serious damage when it collides with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.
Occupants of passenger vehicles are in greater danger when they are involved in an accident with a commercial truck. Passenger vehicles have a lower ground clearance and less protection, putting those inside more at risk of serious injuries and fatalities. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), passenger vehicle occupants are 28 times more likely to be injured or killed (than occupants of the commercial truck) when their vehicles collide.
Determining Fault in a Commercial Truck Accident
When someone is involved in an accident with a big rig truck, it can be difficult to recover compensation for their injuries. These types of cases are complex, because there are several potential parties that may be at fault, and there are numerous laws and regulations that govern the industry. In addition to the truck driver, other responsible parties may include the company that employs the driver, the owner or lessor of the truck, the cargo company that may have overloaded or improperly loaded the truck, the party responsible for properly maintaining the truck, or the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part that may have contributed to the accident.
In such cases, an extensive investigation is required to determine exactly what happened and which parties are responsible. This is not always easy, because trucking companies are often very reluctant to hand over information that may prove that they are liable for an accident. Things can get more complicated if the accident occurs in a state like Alabama where they apply the contributory negligence legal doctrine. Under “contributory negligence”, if the injured party is found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident, they can be barred from recovering damages. For these reasons, it is critical to bring in an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the accident, so your legal rights can be preserved.
Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident in Alabama? Speak with a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident due to drowsy driving, or any other type of motor vehicle accident in Alabama, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating aggressively for your rights and interests. At Burge & Burge, we have extensive experience successfully representing clients with even the most complex cases, and we work tirelessly to obtain full and fair compensation, and to help ensure that all responsible parties are held fully accountable. Call our office today at 205-251-9000 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form. We handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so you never have to pay upfront attorney fees to receive the experienced representation you need and deserve.