Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles are an essential part of commerce in New York and across the nation. However, it takes care, training and a special license to operate a commercial vehicle. Because of the size and weight of these vehicles, if a truck accident occurs, it could result in serious injuries and fatalities. Thus, it is important for semi-truck drivers to operate their vehicles with due care.
Operating a semi-truck with due care means not driving while fatigued. There are federal regulations addressing how long a semi-truck driver can be on the road before they must take a rest break. Unfortunately, these regulations are not always followed and, sometimes, truck drivers engage in drowsy driving, which could lead to crash.
For example, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study found that drivers are less alert at night, which could be amplified if a person has been driving for a long period of time. Moreover, another study revealed that the chance of having a safety-critical event is highest during the first hour the motorist is behind the wheel, due to sleep inertia. Sleep inertia can affect memory, vigilance, reaction time and cognitive functioning.
Drowsy driving can be caused not just by traveling long hours on the road, but also by certain medications, such as cold medicine or other over-the-counter drugs, as well as prescription medications. In fact, one study reports that 17 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers stated they had taken an over-the-counter medication prior to being involved in a collision.
Truck drivers might try many tricks to try to keep themselves awake while driving. They may roll down the window for fresh air, have a cup of coffee or turn up the radio. However, these tricks generally do not make a drowsy driver alert enough to safely operate their vehicle. If a truck driver is fatigued and causes an accident, the accident victims may want to determine if the truck driver's drowsiness constituted negligence. If so, that could form the basis of a personal injury lawsuit.