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Driving When Drowsy: Danger on the Road

Driving any kind of vehicle requires a clear head, the ability to respond and attention. For truck drivers, the long hours on the road and chronic disruption of sleeping patterns can result in lower reaction times and serious overall impairment that put them and all other motorists at increased risk of an accident.

New rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aim to reduce truck accidents caused by fatigue. In 2012, fatal accidents involving large or light trucks killed 400 people in Indiana, according to the state. In 2011, FMCSA passed rule revisions to address the number of injuries and fatalities caused by truck accidents across the country. Fully effective in July of this year, the rule changes call for the following:

  • Truck drivers are now limited to a 70-hour driving workweek. This change reduced the hours of service (HOS) a driver could operate a truck by 12 hours.
  • A 30-minute break is now required during the first eight hours of a driving shift.
  • A driver or trucking company that exceeds defined limits by three hours is subject to fines for each offense.

These rule changes call attention to the dangers of fatigued driving. For as many as one-third of truck operators, part of the reason for daytime drowsiness may not just be hours in a cab, but sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder experienced by motorists and individuals of all types that is caused by age, genetic disposition and factors like smoking and excess weight. As a profession, truck driving requires odd sleeping schedules and does not allow for much exercise, so sleep apnea may be more common among truckers. In highlighting the dangers of driving long hours and the effects of sleep apnea, the FMCSA hopes to reduce accidents and save lives.

No one should drive drowsy. If you find yourself excessively sleepy during the day, see your doctor — particularly if you believe that you are getting ample sleep. If you’re injured in a serious truck accident in Indiana, seek experienced legal representation.