When Truck Drivers Fall Asleep and Cause Accidents

August 10, 2023 | By Impact Legal Car Accident Attorneys
When Truck Drivers Fall Asleep and Cause Accidents

When truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel, the result can be catastrophic damage to property and entire lives. Some big rigs can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. and when they are traveling at a high rate of speed, any impact is certain to produce disastrous outcomes.

Drivers who fall asleep can trigger enormous damage, and this is true even if the driver doesn't actually fall asleep, but merely dozes off, or closes his/her eyes for a moment. In a recent year, there were 91,000 accidents caused by either dozy or sleeping truck drivers, and of those incidents, a total of 800 deaths were recorded.

The nature of long-distance truck driving makes operators especially prone to dozing off or losing focus for a moment, which can potentially cause a devastating accident. In a survey conducted recently, nearly half of all truck drivers polled admitted that they had ‘dozed off' at the wheel at least once. This being the case, guidelines have been established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to help reduce the number and severity of trucking accidents.

Guidelines for Commercial Drivers

Here are some of the most important of the guidelines which have been set forth in an effort to limit truck-driving accidents:

  • 60/70-Hour Limit - In any 7-day period, a driver can drive no more than a total of 60 hours. Once a driver has been off-duty for at least 34 hours, the cycles can restart.
  • 11-Hour Driving Limit - After a 10-hour off-duty period, a driver is only allowed to drive a total of 11 hours.
  • 14-Hour On-Duty Limit - No driver may operate a truck beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • 30-Minute Mandatory Breaks - A driver cannot drive if 8 hours have elapsed since their most recent off-duty period, which lasted at least 30 minutes. 

These guidelines have been established to help limit the occurrence of drivers falling asleep. If properly observed, they have plenty of rest break time built-in, plenty of time to eat and get refreshed, and enough time for a good stretch of sleep.

This is intended to prepare the driver for the next day's driving duties, but unfortunately, the guidelines aren't always observed, and drivers are then affected by the need to doze off or sleep at the wheel. If you become involved in such an incident, you should immediately contact a semi-truck accident lawyer in Arizona. 

What Happens in Over-the-Road Driving

Establishing guidelines is a step in the right direction for better road safety, but when truckers disregard these guidelines, bad things can happen. Here are some of the reasons that drivers tend to become excessively fatigued on the job:

  1. Simple Fatigue - Even if all the rules and guidelines are strictly observed, it's possible for fatigue to set in. This may be due to illness, a poor night's sleep the night before, or just being worn out after a long day on the road.
  2. Driver Wrongdoing - Most truck drivers are reimbursed by the mileage accumulated on any given job. Unfortunately, some drivers try to push the limits of the established FMCSA regulations, or they might even knowingly break them so as to increase the amount of money they get paid.
  3. Company Pressure - Even though it's definitely in the best interest of trucking companies to support safety for all their drivers, some companies still adopt shady practices that tend to put pressure on drivers to operate beyond the limits of safety in order to maximize their profits. In these cases, companies may be liable for accidents

There are other reasons why drivers doze off at the wheel, but these are the most prominent, and in most trucking accidents, one of these will be found to be the culprit. As should be obvious, all these accidents are preventable, and indeed should be avoided if both driver and company prioritize safety first.

What to Do When Involved in a Trucking Accident

Anyone who becomes involved in a commercial vehicle accident with a tractor-trailer should immediately take steps to preserve their right to be compensated for any injuries incurred or any property damage. Here are the steps you should take so that you will remain eligible to receive compensation for all damages:

  1. Get medical care - The first step in the healing process is to seek out medical care for any injuries you have sustained. This will also initiate a trail of medical records that will substantiate any claims you have regarding injuries.
  2. Preserve all evidence - It's not always possible in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but if you can get pictures of the accident site, they can be important evidence which depict the conditions and the area where the accident occurred. Even better would be a video recording, but this too may not be possible.
  3. Contact an 18-wheeler accident lawyer - Once you've consulted with a personal injury attorney, you'll know whether or not you have a case and what the likelihood is of you being compensated for damages. This will help you to get your life back on track, and it will be your best chance of receiving fair compensation for damages.
  4. Don't sign anything - it's likely that the trucking company or their insurance carrier will try to persuade you to agree to a settlement that may be far less than what you're entitled to. This is why you should avoid signing anything until you have consulted with your lawyer.
  5. Maintain records of your medical process - as you're recovering from your injuries, keep all copies of medical bills, and you should also keep personal records showing your efforts at recovery. These records will also show how the injuries have impacted your lifestyle, and they can reveal the full impact of your injury.
  6. Continue to work with your semi-truck accident lawyer in Arizona- it can be a long and tedious process when pursuing compensation from a trucking accident where the driver fell asleep. Everyone on the trucker's side of the equation will be looking to settle quickly and as cheaply as possible. Your attorney will be your advocate for negotiating with the defendants, and if necessary, taking them to court in order to ensure you receive fair compensation.

Contacting a semi-truck accident lawyer will greatly improve your chances of fully recovering. Semi-truck companies often have large insurance companies and teams of lawyers that are set on paying you little to nothing. Don't go into this type of accident alone. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us by calling or texting 602-345-1818. You may also fill out our contact form to request a meeting here. If needed or preferred, we can come to you or schedule a remote video call.