It's estimated that each year 100,000 police-reported car and truck accidents result directly from driver fatigue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, those fatigue-related wrecks cause an estimated 71,000 injuries, 1,550 deaths and $12.5 billion in losses.
And those are conservative estimates. Police officers are generally not trained to identify drowsiness as a factor in a wreck, and there isn't a test for drowsiness as there is for alcohol impairment. In other words, the number of wrecks due to driver fatigue could be much higher than current estimates.
While drowsy driving is dangerous in any kind of motor vehicle, federal regulations are designed specifically to prevent truck driver fatigue.
An 18-wheeler can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In Jasper we see these large commercial trucks on I-22 all the time, and it isn't difficult to imagine the devastation a semi-truck can cause.
Because of the size and weight of tractor-trailers, truck drivers are held to a higher standard of safety than drivers of smaller vehicles, and one important trucking industry regulation to prevent driver fatigue is the requirement for truck drivers to record their hours of service.
A new rule requires truck drivers to do away with their paper log books and replace them with Electronic Logging Devices -- or ELDs.
While most truck drivers operate their vehicles safely and responsibly, there have been instances of truck drivers falsifying their paper log books in order to get away with hours-of-service violations.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had this to say about the new ELD requirement: "This automated technology not only brings the logging records into the modern age; it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk."
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that the new ELD rule will, on average, prevent 562 injuries and save 26 lives each year.
Many truck drivers and trucking companies already use ELDs to track hours of service, but drivers who still use paper log books are required to upgrade to ELDs within two years. It's expected that the rule change will affect about 3 million drivers.
With a multitude of factors to consider, including federal regulations and possible multi-party liability, truck accident investigations are particularly complex.
Truck accident victims deserve compensation for the full extent of their injuries. Unfortunately, getting the full and fair amount of compensation can be difficult because of the many factors typically involved.
In any case, all potentially liable parties should be notified of the accident claim, and an investigation should be launched as soon as possible to preserve time-sensitive evidence. These are duties best handled by a personal injury lawyer with experience in investigating and managing truck accident claims.
For more on how truck accident claims should be handled, please see The Sapp Law Firm's truck accident overview.