Is drowsy driving a big concern among truck drivers?

Big rigs often populate New York roads. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, each year roughly 4,000 people die in car accidents involving large trucks. It is hard to know how many of these fatalities were caused by drowsy drivers, but fatigue is considered to be a leading cause in truck accidents.

Long work days lead to less sleep

The main reason drowsy driving is a concern for semi drivers is because people in this profession tend to work more hours than someone in a more conventional job. Not only do they work long hours, but the majority of their day is spent behind the wheel. Before regulations were put in place, a truck driver may have worked 80 hours in a single week. During a typical work day, a trucker may take as few breaks as possible because often he or she is paid by the miles traveled.

It is hard to track fatigue

Even though driving while tired is a real concern in the trucking industry, it can be hard for officials to track fatigue. For example, there is not a blood test one can use to determine whether a driver was tired at the time of a crash. This uncertainty leads many in the trucking industry to underestimate the dangers of fatigued driving. For this reason, more regulations are being put in place to force drivers to take precautions against drowsiness.

As truck driving becomes more regulated, companies are turning to electronic log books. This type of system tends to keep a more accurate record of a trucker's driving history than the old paper logs.

Companies should encourage drivers to get adequate sleep

Because a sleepy driver in a semi can be a danger to so many on the road, trucking companies should equip drivers with the tools they need to stay alert while on the road. For example, a company may want to educate its drivers on tips for avoiding fatigue, such as the following:

  • Promote restful sleep by maintaining a healthy and regular diet.
  • Do not take medications that may cause drowsiness while driving.
  • Get a full night's rest before hitting the road.
  • Pull over and take a nap should drowsiness become a concern.
  • Watch for the signals of fatigue, such as blurred vision, frequent yawning and heavy eyes.

Some drivers may try to keep sleepiness at bay by drinking caffeine, opening the window, talking on the phone or listening to the radio at high volumes. However, these actions may not do enough to actually wake a driver up.

Big rig drivers in New York may be more likely to get tired while driving simply because of the hours they spend on the road. If an accident does take place, it might be helpful to talk with a knowledgeable attorney.