fatigue and substance abusefatigue and substance abuse

Colorado is a beautiful state with a wide variety of terrain, from high mountain passes to agricultural plains and busy urban areas. However, our scenic landscape can also mean treacherous driving conditions, especially for motorists who are tired or unable to pay attention to their surroundings.

Truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to fatigued or drowsy driving. They operate under tight deadlines and drive long hours on tedious stretches of road. Busy interstates, steep grades, and summer construction zones are no places for tired drivers. Drowsy truck drivers can cause catastrophic accidents and leave victims struggling to cope with the physical, emotional, and financial fallout.

Have you been hurt in an accident with a drowsy truck driver? Contact a Denver truck driver fatigue lawyer at Olson Law Firm, LLC, for help with your claim. Getting fair compensation from a trucking company can be challenging. Truck companies are looking out for their profits. You need someone looking out for you.

Get in touch with our Denver office today for a free and confidential consultation.

How Dangerous Is It to Drive a Truck While Tired?

Driving while drowsy is extremely dangerous. It can potentially be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Why? Because sleep deprivation impacts the body in many of the same ways that alcohol does.

The Sleep Foundation estimates that being awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent. After 20 hours awake, drivers are close to a BAC of 0.08 percent. For reference, commercial truck drivers who operate their vehicles with a BAC of 0.04 percent risk losing their CDL license.

Drowsiness can impact motor function, impair judgment and vision, and affect cognition, much like alcohol. Reaction times can also slow significantly, making it difficult for drivers to make sound decisions. Drowsy drivers also run the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving Statistics for Truckers

According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), three out of every four truck drivers reported experiencing at least one form of driving error due to being tired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 697 people lost their lives due to drowsy driving-related accidents in one recent year. Unfortunately, this number may be significantly higher because drowsy driving can be challenging to identify.

Truck drivers are particularly susceptible to driving while drowsy because of their long hours and strict deadlines. Truck drivers also drive at unusual times of the day and night. It is not uncommon for drivers of large trucks to operate their vehicles overnight. The FMCSA estimates that 36 percent of fatal truck crashes happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations

The FMCSA is a federal agency that oversees the safety of commercial motor vehicles. The organization imposes strict hours of service regulations meant to help curb drowsy driving incidents on U.S. roadways.

For example, commercial truck drivers are allowed to drive only 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and they must not continue driving after being on duty for 14 straight hours. Drivers are also required to take 30-minute breaks after eight cumulative hours behind the wheel. In addition, they must go off duty for at least 34 hours after being on duty for 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days.

Investigating a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident

Investigating a truck accident is never easy, especially in cases of drowsy driving. No test can tell law enforcement if a driver was fatigued at the time of the crash. However, evidence from the collision and data collected from the truck’s black box and other sources can be useful in helping to determine if the driver was fatigued.

Some of the evidence we may collect to build your case includes:

  • Data from the truck’s black box or event data recorder (EDR), which records information about the driver’s actions and the truck’s operation
  • The truck driver’s electronic logbook device (ELD), which may help determine whether a driver was operating their vehicle beyond their hours of service
  • The trucking company’s employment and training records
  • The trucking company’s dispatch records
  • The truck driver’s cell phone records
  • Physical evidence from the scene of the accident, including the truck itself
  • Photographs of the crash scene, vehicle damage, and injuries
  • Video footage from dash cameras, traffic cameras, and surveillance cameras
  • Statements from eyewitnesses 
  • Complete medical records
  • Information from expert witnesses, such as medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialist

It isn’t easy to secure vital evidence from trucking companies, especially if it could demonstrate their liability for a crash. An experienced attorney is a powerful ally who can take immediate action to ensure that any evidence relevant to your case is preserved.

What Causes Denver Truck Driver Fatigue?

Driving long distances can be lonely and boring. It can be easy to let the mind wander and eyelids droop when it feels like you have been staring at the same stretch of road for hours on end.

On the other hand, some truck drivers can feel immense pressure to deliver cargo on a tight deadline. They force themselves to push their physical limits and drive even when they know they are tired.

There are dozens of reasons why a driver may choose to drive while drowsy. Some of the most common causes of Denver truck driver fatigue include:

  • Tight deadlines
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Boredom
  • Undiagnosed sleep disorder
  • Taking drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Taking sleep aids before operating a vehicle
  • Driving at times when people usually sleep

Sudden changes to a driver’s schedule or shift can also impact their sleep cycle and put them at risk for fatigued driving.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

Several strategies drivers can use to prevent drowsy driving include:

  • Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel (most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep per day).
  • Try to stick to a sleep schedule and maintain good sleeping habits.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Get physical exercise.
  • Get somewhere safe and take a nap if you feel tired.
  • Recognize the signs of drowsiness like yawning, blinking frequently, difficulty concentrating, and drifting out of your lane.
  • Avoid alcohol or medications that can cause drowsiness.
  • Talk to your doctor about a potential sleep disorder if you have problems sleeping or feel drowsy during the day.

When to Contact a Lawyer After a Fatigued Driver Truck Accident

If you are involved in a significant truck accident, it is time to contact a skilled Denver attorney for help. It can be challenging for accident victims to recognize the signs of drowsy driving, and even more challenging to prove a driver was fatigued at the time of the crash.

Do not attempt to negotiate with the trucking company or their insurers on your own. Get help from an experienced drowsy driving accident attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the sooner they can get on top of preserving valuable evidence before it can be lost or destroyed.

Contact Our Denver Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Lawyers Today

The Denver personal injury lawyers at Olson Law Firm, LLC, have extensive experience handling driver fatigue cases. Contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case.