You're driving down a Texas interstate late one night, coming home from a work trip. It may be nearing midnight, but you didn't actually set out until mid-afternoon, so you feel pretty good. Just in case, you have a hot cup of coffee in the cup holder. You know the value of staying awake and alert behind the wheel.
Then you come to a work zone, and traffic is a bit backed up. They're down to just one lane. Even with the lighter late-night traffic, people have started slowing because the workers are on the job, with shifts running around the clock. They're being careful.
As you slow to a stop to wait, you see a truck looming behind you. The headlights are so high; they feel huge and ominous. It doesn't seem like the truck is slowing down at all. By the time you realize that the impact is imminent, it's too late.
The next thing you know, you wake up in the hospital. You have serious injuries. When you ask what happened, someone tells you that the driver fell asleep behind the wheel and did not see the stopped traffic.
A serious issue
This example, of course, shows why truck driver fatigue is so serious; the injuries can change your life. But it's also serious in the sense that it's common. Why does it happen? A few reasons include:
- Skipping sleep. Some reports claim that the average amount of hours a truck driver spends sleeping is just five per night.
- Working long hours in a row. Even when following safety regulations, drivers can still put in some incredibly long days.
- Driving at night. Some drivers prefer to drive at night to get around traffic, but it can be a problem when the body naturally wants to sleep at that time.
- The lull of the road. That constant drone can put a driver to sleep.
- Breaking regulations. Unfortunately, some drivers falsify their logs and drive for more hours per day or per week than the law allows.
- Using different types of drugs. These could be illegal drugs, of course, but could also be legal ones like sleeping pills. If a driver gets on the road again too quickly, they play a role.
- Alcohol use. Even one drink can make a driver feel more tired than they would be otherwise.
- Uncomfortable sleeping conditions. Many drivers use sleeper cabs. Even the best ones in the world are just not the same as sleeping at home in a real bed.
Now what? You have high medical bills and many other costs. The factors above caused the driver to fall asleep. You may be able to seek financial compensation, and you need to know what steps to take.