Truck accidents have become very common across the US. For instance, a recent truck crash killed two sisters in St. Louis. The accident was a result of overspeeding. The driver was driving at the speed of 100 mph, whereas the limit was only 30 mph. However, accidents caused by overspeeding are still less common. The more common ones are those resulting from sleep deprivation.
Every day, millions of truck drivers crisscross the highways and byways of the world, delivering goods to their intended destinations. These modern-day knights of the road play a crucial role in keeping the wheels of commerce turning.
However, a significant and often overlooked hazard shadows their every move – sleep deprivation. In this article, we’ll discuss the lethal consequences of sleep-deprived truck drivers and explore the factors contributing to this perilous situation.
The Prevalence of Sleep Deprivation Among Truck Drivers
The prevalence of truck accidents itself has increased over time. Around 13.49 fatal large truck crashes occurred per million people in the United States in 2020. It is a 27% increase from 10.6 in 2010.
But when it comes to the prevalence of sleep deprivation, it is at the top. Recently, there was a crash near St. Louis. In that crash, three people died and 14 were injured. After investigation, it was found that the accident occurred as the driver was feeling sleepy.
Hence, a team of news reporters started communicating with the drivers everyday to find out how common this problem is. The results revealed that sleepiness is the biggest issue drivers face.
Here are some reasons why truck drivers face sleep deprivation:
- Long hours and irregular schedules: Many truck drivers work long hours and have irregular schedules. They may need to drive overnight, on weekends, and during holidays. This can disrupt their circadian rhythms and make it challenging to get adequate sleep.
- Pressure to meet deadlines: Truck drivers are often under pressure to meet delivery deadlines. This pressure can lead to a temptation to drive for extended periods without taking sufficient rest breaks, to meet these demands.
- Sleep disorders: Some truck drivers may suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, which can further exacerbate their sleep deprivation. These disorders can go undiagnosed and untreated, posing additional risks on the road.
- Economic factors: Some truck drivers may rely on their income and are paid by the mile or by the load. This incentivizes them to spend more time on the road. Although it can help them financially, it discourages them from taking the necessary rest breaks.
Sleep deprivation is common, however, this is something that truck drivers need to take care of at their end. If they are not getting enough rest, they should communicate the same with their managers.
If an accident occurs due to sleep deprivation, the driver can be held accountable. If someone has been a part of such a crash, he or she can hire a local attorney and file a lawsuit. It is advised to hire local attorneys because they will be well-acquainted with the applicable regulations.
So, suppose your crash happened in St. Louis. In such cases, you should hire a St. Louis trucking accident lawyer. Also, hire someone who specializes in truck crashes and not just any personal liability attorney.
According to TorHoerman Law, truck accidents can differ from car crashes. For instance, they usually involve multiple parties. Plus, these crashes are far more severe and fatal compared to car accidents. Hence, hiring a lawyer specializing in truck accidents is crucial.
The Human Cost: Fatal Accidents and Their Impact
It’s a grim statistic, trucking accidents are the leading cause of death for motor vehicle operators in the United States. In fact, more than 5,000 people die each year from truck-related accidents. Data from a study from ScienceDirect shows that pickup trucks are involved in just 5.6% of pedestrian and cyclist crashes. However, they were involved in 12.6% of fatalities, overall.
In addition to this tragic human cost, there is also an economic burden associated with these accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that accidents cost $340 billion annually in damage.
Accidents related to sleep deprivation lead to increased healthcare expenses. This can include emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, and ongoing treatment for injuries and health conditions.
Technological Solutions to Prevent Such Accidents
In an effort to address the issue, many trucking companies have implemented technologies that can help mitigate the risks of sleep-deprived driving. These include:
- Driver monitoring systems – These systems use cameras and sensors to monitor a driver’s performance while they are behind the wheel. They can detect if a driver is falling asleep or drunk, and how much time they spend looking at their mobile devices. The market for such systems is supposed to reach an average CAGR of 7.5% till 2033.
- Drowsiness detection systems – Another type of technology used in trucks is called “drowsiness detection systems.” These systems measure things like eye movement patterns and muscle activity when someone is tired or asleep at the wheel. Thus, they can indicate when a driver is feeling sleepy. Moreover, the systems can also suggest break timings, how much rest is required, etc., based on the data collected.
- Automated Braking Systems – An automated braking system uses sensors placed around a vehicle that detect objects in its path. These sensors send signals back to computers onboard the truck which then activates brakes automatically without any input from drivers. This type of technology combines radar with camera data so it can anticipate potential collisions before they happen.
The government has mandated heavy trucks and buses to include automatic emergency braking equipment within five years. The Federal Traffic Safety Agency estimates that it will prevent nearly 20,000 crashes and save around 155 lives annually. The regulation was passed in June 2023.
The prevalence of sleep deprivation among truck drivers is alarming, and the risks are clear. We need to do more to protect people from accidents caused by drowsy driving. However, we should also be mindful that this problem won’t be solved overnight.
It will take time for technology and regulation alike to catch up with our needs as human beings who regularly require restful sleep. In the meantime, there are simple steps you can take today: get enough sleep tonight so tomorrow goes smoothly.
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