Long-haul truckers and other motorists are not strangers to driving fatigued. You yawn, your eyelids feel heavy and like they have grit in them, and your vision begins to blur. The next thing you know, your vehicle has drifted onto the shoulder or across the lane or, even worse, the centerline. This is a problem that plagues many Californians and causes numerous traffic collisions every year. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, up to 1,550 fatalities are caused by fatigued drivers or those who fall asleep while driving. Accidents each year that can be attributed to drowsy driving are a minimum of 100,000. In the following sections, we will explore the causes of drowsy driving, frequent signs and what can be done to lessen the risk.
LA Driver Fatigue Truck Accident Lawyer David Azizi
LA truck accident lawyer David has been practicing personal injury law for 25 years. In that time, he has seen the catastrophic results of driving while fatigued. David wins 98 percent of his cases due to his dogged determination of obtaining the compensation his clients deserve. He is named one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles year after year by the acclaimed legal ranking service Super Lawyers. Call David at (800) 991-5292 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. David will review your accident and provide an estimate of what your case is worth as well as the options you have moving forward. You can also reach out to David by using his convenient, online contact form.
Truck Drivers and Fatigue
While any motorist can drive drowsy and cause an accident, it is especially dangerous for a truck driver to do so. This is because the driver’s rig is much larger than other vehicles and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Obviously, a collision with one can have disastrous results and end up causing severe injuries and fatalities. Of the factors reported as the causes of big rig accidents, fatigue counted for 13 percent. One out of four truck drivers reported that they had drifted off to sleep while driving within the past month, and many said that they sleep fewer than five hours per night, which is well below the recommended sleep amount for adults.
Causes of Drowsy Driving
According to a poll called Sleep in America, which was conducted by The National Sleep Foundation, 69 percent of all motorists polled admitted driving while drowsy at least one time each month within the past year. Those with sleep problems showed a higher incidence at 41 percent compared to 28 percent of people who don’t suffer from sleep problems. Some of the reasons truck drivers and other motorists are drowsy while driving include those with:
- Job-related problems: Shift workers, long-haul truck drivers, tow truck operators and bus drivers are most likely to drive drowsy.
- Loss of sleep: Although this may seem obvious, many Americans don’t get the amount of sleep at night that is recommended, which is seven to nine hours. Many suffer from sleep deprivation, especially if they have small children, work long hours or go out at night on the weekends.
- Medical conditions: Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea can contribute to drowsiness while driving. Since many sleep disorders interrupt sleep throughout the night, it can prevent the individual from getting sufficient rest to avoid drowsiness.
- Drinking or drug use: Consumption of alcohol or certain types of drugs can cause drowsiness. Drugs that might be involved include both illegal substances, over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions. Truck drivers may use illicit substances or legal ones such as combining ephedrine with caffeine. Using stimulants such as these can make the driver falsely feel that they are awake enough to be behind the wheel of the vehicle when the opposite is true.
- Circadian rhythms: The circadian rhythm is that internal clock that makes people sleep at certain times and be wide awake other times. In other words, it’s the sleep and wake cycle. Many adults have two: the nighttime hours when they sleep and after lunch when they might have the urge for a nap. Those who are deprived of sleep will feel this tiredness at these hours more. The circadian rhythm can be interrupted by things such as jet lag, staying up late to watch television or daylight savings time. This is one of the reasons accidents are more common when there is a change in daylight savings time.
- Sleeping pills: Those who keep irregular hours or suffer from insomnia sometimes take sleeping pills. While these may be helpful to get a few hours rest, it can leave the person drowsy afterward.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
Feeling sleepy while driving can be deceptive. Some drivers know that they are feeling drowsy but think they can keep themselves awake long enough to get to their destination. Others may believe a cup of coffee or other stimulants may be enough to wake them up. This can be deceptive, and this way of thinking has led to many traffic accidents.
Some of the signs that a motorist is too drowsy to drive include:
- Problems recalling recent areas the motorist drove past
- Problems focusing
- Eyelids feeling heavy or gritty
- Blinking frequently
- Wandering thoughts
- Eye rubbing
- Problems keeping up the head
- Missing exits
- Drifting onto the shoulder
- Drifting outside the lane
Lessening the Risk of Driver Fatigue
Motorists, whether of a big rig or another vehicle, have various ways to try and cope with feeling sleepy while driving. Many will turn on a radio and crank up the volume. Others will roll the windows down. However, neither of these actions will help very much. The following recommendations might be a better option to avoid an accident:
- Unless it is necessary, don’t drive late at night,
- Try to bring someone else along if you are going to be on the road for hours. Motorists who drive alone for long periods of time are most likely to get drowsy.
- Get a full night’s sleep before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
- Share driving with another person.
- Stop periodically to walk around and maybe get a drink with caffeine in it.
- Rest stops are there for a reason. Use them to take a short nap and refresh yourself.
- If you work a late shift, share a ride home with another employee.
Free Case Review – Los Angeles Law Firm for Truck Accidents
When you are injured in an accident due to a negligent driver, you have the right to be compensated for the monetary damages you suffered. These include all medical expenses and lost wages as well as pain and suffering. If the accident was particularly egregious, you may also qualify for punitive damages. David Azizi will investigate your accident, interview witnesses and obtain video footage of the accident from nearby businesses and traffic cameras. Don’t hesitate. Call to begin the process at (800) 991-5292 today. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.