Truck driving accidents involving fatigued or sleepy truck drivers are unfortunately still too common. They are also a major cause of car accidents involving trucks. When a truck driver is sleepy or fatigued, he or she has slowed response times and may not react in time in order to avoid a collision. In the worst case scenario, a sleepy truck driver can fall asleep at the wheel and cause car accidents, pedestrian accidents, or collisions with other trucks after losing control of the vehicle.
There are regulations which dictate how long truck drivers can drive before taking a break or rest. While these laws can help prevent some truck accidents caused by fatigue, these laws are far from fool-proof. In some cases, truck companies pressure drivers to drive for excessively long periods of time in order to meet deadlines. In some cases, drivers themselves ignore break and rest regulations because they wish to earn more money. Even in cases where truck drivers obey the laws and take breaks as prescribed, this may not be enough to prevent driver fatigue and resulting accidents.
There are also many conditions which can contribute to driver fatigue. Even rested drivers may be prone to fatigue if they take certain medications or suffer from certain conditions. Hot, muggy days, poor sleep and even heavy meals can contribute to feelings of sleepiness and fatigue which can impact how well a truck driver drives.
Truck drivers should take breaks when they are tired, not only when their guidelines tell them to. There are many drowsiness that truck drivers should be alert to. Any of these signs could indicate a dangerous level of drowsiness:
1) The driver yawns frequently. Yawning is an early sign of fatigue or lack of oxygen. If opening the window and getting some fresh air does not help, it is time for a rest.
2) The driver day dreams or has a mind that wanders. When bodies get worn down, so do minds, and minds react by wandering or day-dreaming. Not only is daydreaming a sign of dangerous fatigue, it is in itself a dangerous form of distraction that can easily lead to a truck accident.
3) The driver makes mistakes while driving. A truck driver who slows down and speeds up randomly, who wanders to the edge of the road, or wanders over the center line is making driving mistakes which could easily prove fatal. These are the signs of a dangerously fatigued or distracted driver. If you are driving behind such a driver, contact the authorities. If you are a truck driver and notice such mistakes in your own driving, pull over and rest immediately before an accident takes place.
4) The driver feels stiff or drained and feels that his or her eyes are getting heavy. When we are tired and ignore the body’s impulse to rest, our muscles eventually start to feel sore and our eyes get heavy as our body starts to shut down to compel us to rest. If a truck driver has these symptoms, it is time to pull over.
5) The driver cannot remember the last few minutes or seconds of driving or cannot remember the last few miles. This is really the danger zone, because if a truck driver cannot remember the past few seconds or miles, chances are good that he or she has fallen asleep at the wheel. When a driver ignores the impulse to rest, the body eventually shuts down and pushes the driver into small mini-sleeps, some lasting only a few seconds. This is an emergency situation, because during these small micro-sleeps, the driver loses control of the vehicle and can easily cause an accident.