There is no doubt that fatigued driving in Hollywood and across the country leads to trucking collisions. Each year, thousands of people are injured or killed in trucking collisions in Hollywood and across the nation because big rig drivers and tractor trailer drivers get behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive safely.
Even though the risks of fatigued driving are well-known, there is much disagreement as to how to address the issue. Earlier this year, new hours of service regulations were passed which would require different rests breaks and would lower maximum hours driven per week from 82 to 70. Safety advocates claimed that the hours of service rules did not go far enough and still allowed long-haul truckers to stay on the roads for much longer than may be safe.
The trucking industry did not agree with the changes either, stating that the new rules require two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. each week, which would put truck drivers back on the roads during morning rush hour, potentially creating the risk for more collisions. Some legislators are seeking an amendment through Senate that would freeze the new hours of service rules until more research could be done to determine the rules’ effect on roadway safety.
Trucking industry officials have also stated that giving long-haul drivers more flexibility about rest periods would be more conducive to sleep and rest between driving times. They have further argued that simply cutting back hours would lower productivity and put more trucks on the roads, which could increase the risk of motor vehicle collisions in Hollywood and other cities.
Even doing research about fatigued driving is difficult, in part because fatigue is challenging to measure and problematic to prove after the fact. A 1990 study by the Transportation Safety Board concluded that fatigued driving played a role in 182 commercial truck crashes studies. In a 2006 study, however, the Department of Transportation concluded that fatigued driving plays a role in 13% of trucking accidents.
While many experts focus on passing laws that would reduce fatigued driving and crashes, part of the problem with fatigued driving is that it can be so hard to legislate. A driver can technically obey the hours of service rules and still be a danger on the road. Drivers may be unable to sleep during their rest periods, for example, or may suffer from sleep disorders or health conditions that leave them fatigued even when they get the mandated number of rest breaks.
Clearly, passing new laws is not enough. What needs to change are attitudes. Rather than trying to simply state how many hours a driver must rest, more needs to be done to give drivers the tools needed to stay safe on the roads. This may mean providing more health services so that truck drivers can address any symptoms or problems before they become a hazard. It can also mean paying truck drivers well, even if they need to make a safer decision to take an unscheduled rest break due to fatigue. The way trucking is set up is that truck drivers are paid by cargo delivered and miles driven. There is a financial incentive to push past fatigue and keep driving.
What do you think? What needs to be done to help prevent fatigued driving from claiming more lives?
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