Drowsy Driving Laws And Commercial Truck Drivers

Being too tired to safely drive your vehicle leads to more than 95,000 accidents yearly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The severity of the situation skyrockets when truck drivers are involved, and the damage done by a truck carrying up to 100,000 lbs is often deadly.

Laws vary from state to state when it comes to drowsy driving laws, but everyone seems to agree that drowsy driving is becoming more and more of a problem. 

Although laws vary, states agree that awareness needs to be brought to this issue.

Most states have a “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” each year.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently implemented new Hours of Service (HOS) rules limiting how many hours commercial truck drivers can remain behind the wheel without a break, and how long breaks must last.  The hope of the new HOS rules is to drastically reduce commercial truck accident involvement.

Technology is also on the side of safety.

Electronic logs make it much harder for drivers to succumb to the pressure to “just keep driving.”  With new technology enabling electronic logging, it becomes much more challenging for an individual to override the system and fudge the numbers to stay on the road longer each day.  The new rules have reduced truckers’ allowable workweek hours to 70 per week.

Several studies put out by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) show  that long-distance truck drivers routinely violate work rules.  When interviewed, 33% of truck drivers admitted to staying on the road longer than they should.

These fatigued truck drivers say they do it for a variety of reasons:

  • Wanting to get home sooner
  • Attempting to staying ahead of bad weather
  • Employees given external pressure to meet workplace deadlines
  • Trying to hurry through busy areas sooner to avoid rush hour in major cities

Even though multiple agencies are taking steps to keep all drivers safe, over-the-road drivers can still be behind the wheel for up to eleven hours a day.  Driving for that length of time can lead to sleepiness, fatigue and can simply numb the senses.

All of this can  decrease a driver’s ability to react quickly to road situations.

What can you do as a non-truck driver?

When out on the open road, taking steps to keep safe will be worth it.  Give trucks plenty of stopping room and never drive in the blind spot of a truck.  If a driver was to doze off behind the wheel, your awareness of where trucks are on the road gives you the best chance to keep yourself safe.

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