It is well established that lack of sleep increases the risk of car and truck accidents tremendously. In 2015, over 35,000 people died in auto accidents. Research shows that 20% of traffic fatalities are the result of drowsiness.
The AAA Foundation’s recently released report even a few hours of missed sleep can increase the risks significantly. With each hour of sleep below the recommended 7 or 8 hours, the risk increases exponentially. This is cause for concern and caution for all drivers. However, it is particularly concerning in relation to trucking since the industry production standards inherently encourage drowsy driving.
Trucking Industry Prone to Sleep Deprivation
Public Citizen has conducted extensive research on the dangers of sleep deprived truck drivers. Their findings are remarkable. Noting that trucking is the most dangerous occupation in the U.S., Public Citizen notes:
“Driver fatigue is a major factor in up to 40 percent of all heavy truck crashes. The risk of a crash dramatically increases after 10 hours of driving, causing deaths, injuries and crash-caused congestion. The Department of Transportation states that fatigue is a direct cause of 15 percent of truck crash fatalities and injuries, resulting in more than 750 deaths and nearly 20,000 injuries each year.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that accident risks up 400% from 8th to 11th hour. Amazingly, truck drivers are allowed by law to drive 14 hours in a 24 hour period and encouraged to drive 70 hours per week virtually guaranteeing a high rate of sleep deprivation and drowsiness on the roads.
Sleep Deprivation Related Truck Accidents
Negligence Per Se
These statistics are widely recognized and accepted. The only ones who have failed to heed the warnings are those in the trucking industry who refuse to implement safety measures to protect against the risk of sleep deprivation on the roads. This is largely the result, like many bad policies and practices, of the profit motive in trucking. It needs little explanation other than to say longer hours increase productivity and profits.
In truck accidents involving sleep deprived truckers, it is quite reasonable to argue negligence per se. This essentially means that the fact that it occurred and led to an accident is by definition negligence.
In addition to the negligence per se argument, anyone injured as a result of a truck accident caused by driver fatigue, a very strong argument can be made for punitive damages. Punitive damages are used both to punish the wrongdoer and to discourage similar action in the future by other trucking companies and drivers.
In cases like these where the risks are so clear, punitive damages are both appropriate for the individual case and essential to public safety.
Compensation for Injuries or Death
Both the company and the driver individually will be facing liability in these cases. Due to the magnitude and seriousness of these accidents, it is important to sort out responsibility and liability to identify all available sources of compensation. Trucking companies typically have a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage. The driver may also have insurance coverage.
There are number of other possible sources for compensation as well that must be identified.
It is very important in trucking cases to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney for many reasons not the least of which is the fact that trucking companies are not particularly prone to cooperation or fairness.
Traffic safety officials regularly warn us of the risks of driving while drunk or distracted. But Americans still need to wake up to the dangers of getting behind the wheel when sleepy, according to a recent study of crash rates.
But Americans still need to wake up to the dangers of getting behind the wheel when sleepy, according to a recent study of crash rates.
Missing 1-2 hours of sleep doubles crash risk: Study reveals the dangers of getting less than 7 hours of sleep — ScienceDaily
Drivers who miss between one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily. And with drowsy driving involved in more than one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year, AAA warns drivers that getting less than seven hours of sleep may have deadly consequences.