Drowsy driving is an important issue in Colorado and across the United States – particularly when it comes to the drivers of tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks. Drowsy driving is a widespread problem in the trucking industry, which is a serious concern not only for the drivers of these massive vehicles, but for others on the road as well.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that fatigue was a critical factor in 13% of all accidents involving large commercial vehicles. They defined a “critical factor” as the one element of the collision without which the accident would not have happened.
When a truck driver is not allowed enough rest or if they fail to give themselves the time they need to recover and operate their vehicle alertly and responsibly, serious accidents can occur. If you or someone you love was hurt in a collision with a drowsy truck driver, we want to hear from you.
The Colorado truck accident attorneys of the Olson Law Firm, LLC are here to provide you with the qualified, compassionate legal counsel you need and deserve. It won’t cost you anything to speak with us about your case, so call us to schedule your free consultation today.
Why are Colorado Truckers Driving Fatigued or Impaired by Substance Abuse?
Drowsy driving occurs when someone is sleepy or fatigued yet drives anyway. The most common cause of drowsy driving is the lack of sleep, but other causes include untreated sleep disorders, medications, drinking alcohol, or irregular work schedules.
To combat the high number of accidents caused by driver fatigue, lawmakers strengthened trucker fatigue laws in 2013 to reduce the amount of time that drivers can be behind the wheel. They cut the maximum workweek for truckers from 82 to 70 hours. They limited the number of hours a driver can drive each day to 11 hours and required a 30-minute break in their schedule. They also introduced mandatory rest periods after a driver reaches the allowed number of hours.
The trucking industry has been battling these regulations. Many truck drivers also push their limits to meet the strict deadlines placed on them. Many truckers have to follow a rigid schedule, but they can easily get behind due to unavoidable delays such as weather or road construction. Congestion on roadways is more significant than ever before, and this situation increases the time it takes for a driver to get to their destination, contributing to fatigue. However, traffic is also a major hazard, and drivers must be more alert and attentive.
One reason truckers are fatigued is because of their irregular schedule, and they can struggle to fall asleep when they need to. Some drivers turn to sleeping pills to fall asleep. However, sleeping pills sometimes leave you more fatigued if you have to wake up before the effects wear off. Or they can leave you with sleep inertia, which is the desire to sleep even after you’ve been awake for a while.
Some studies suggest that drivers who sleep in sleeper berths have a difficult time waking and are not fully awake after getting back behind the wheel. This is especially true when driving at night.
Other drivers may resort to illegal drug use, taking marijuana, amphetamines, or cocaine to stay awake. Some combine stimulants such as caffeine and ephedrine. These substances are technically not illegal, but they are also not a good combination for driving. Not only can stimulants impair a trucker’s ability to drive, but they can also mask the driver’s fatigue. Drivers using these substances might claim they feel fine to drive when they need to rest.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving and Substance Abuse in Colorado
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend these tips for drowsy driving prevention:
- Get more sleep. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. In contrast, many long-haul truckers average less than 5 hours of sleep per night.
- Obey the hours of service regulations which limit the number of hours you can drive.
- Take a nap when you are tired.
- Don’t drive at night.
- If you have a sleep disorder or have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, snoring, or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or taking medications that make you drowsy. Be sure to check the label on any medications or talk to your pharmacist.
- Use an alert system.
- Remember that you can’t trick yourself into staying awake.
- Know what drowsy driving feels and looks like.
The Hazards Posed by Tired Truckers in Colorado
Here are some of the signs of drowsy driving.:
- Frequent yawning or blinking
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
- Missing your exit
- Drifting out of your lane
- Hitting a rumble strip on the shoulder or the centerline of the road
How does drowsy driving affect your ability to drive?
- It’s hard to pay attention to the road.
- Your reaction time is slowed down if you have to brake or steer suddenly.
- Sleepiness affects your judgment and ability to make good decisions.
Proving Driver Fatigue and Substance Abuse in a Colorado Truck Accident
Vehicle crashes involving tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks can be incredibly complicated. It can be challenging to pursue and secure compensation for your claim without the help of a knowledgeable truck accident attorney.
An experienced truck accident attorney will look at a number of factors to determine potential causes, including:
- The time of day the accident occurred. Many drowsy driving accidents occur at night.
- How the accident occurred. For example, If the driver failed to make a simple avoidance maneuver, a skilled Denver personal injury lawyer may be able to prove that the driver’s reaction time may have been impaired due to fatigue.
- The driver’s hours. If the driver exceeded the allowable number of weekly or daily hours, that might suggest that negligence was the cause. The driver is required to make a record of the time they went off and on duty. They also must record which mile marker they were at when they went off duty and the total number of miles they drove while on duty.
- Other records show how much time a driver worked, including the driver’s bill of lading and receipts for gas, tolls, and meals. Driver fatigue contributes to tragic and unavoidable truck crashes because drivers push themselves over their limits. Sometimes trucking companies are responsible for pushing their drivers to exceed allowed limits. When driver fatigue contributes to a truck accident, both the driver and the truck company may be liable for damages.
How Can Olson Law Firm, LLC Help Me in Colorado?
When a driver or trucking company is reckless or negligent, everyone at the road is at risk of being hurt or killed in an accident. The Colorado truck accident lawyers of the Olson Law Firm, LLC work with clients to hold truck drivers, trucking companies, and other parties accountable when driver fatigue causes a truck crash.
If you have been injured in a truck accident involving a drowsy driver or a driver under the influence, call the Olson Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation. Our compassionate and experienced lawyers will meet with you to discuss the details of your claim. We can offer insight into your situation and offer you options for taking legal action against those responsible for your injuries.
We are here to help, so call us to schedule your free consultation today.