Road accidents are so common that they are the 5th highest cause of death in the United States. Nearly 70% of all truck accidents result in fatalities. Out of the 70% of fatalities, nearly 60% were passengers in motor vehicles, 15% were cyclists, and the rest were motorcyclists and pedestrians.
These statistics are daunting, as the number of fatalities that involved trucks in 2014 alone was 3,660. If we take into consideration that trucks make out nearly 4% of all vehicles on the roads, then we can safely assume those truck accidents are a big problem on U.S. roads.
Are truck drivers being overworked? Check out these 5 common causes of truck accidents and some ideas for helping to prevent them.
According to Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., there are five most common causes for all truck accidents, and we’re going to discuss them in greater detail.
The fact that truck drivers are being overworked is a problem on its own. Driver fatigue is the leading cause of truck accidents, as most drivers drive long routes with very little time for rest. On average, a truck driver drives nearly 14 hours per day. The main cause for this is that company owners demand goods to be delivered within the set deadlines, which usually are insane to cover.
This leads to the idea that truck drivers are generally overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put regulations in place to help alleviate some of the strain on drivers, but those are not always met. Unfortunately, this puts truckers as well as everyone else on the road at risk.
So what can be done to help prevent so many fatigued drivers?
First and foremost, be sure to get a solid night’s sleep before your shift. Your body tends to be naturally drowsy between midnight and 6 am as well as between 2 pm and 4 pm, so it’s a good idea to stay off the road during those times if possible.
Eating healthy and nourishing foods is another great way to stay energized and alert. Skipping meals or eating heavy foods will put you on the fast track to sleepiness. Eating something heavy means your body has to exert more energy to digest it. It’s always a good idea to eat light, healthy snacks throughout your shift to keep your energy regulated. Try things like trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, or apples and bananas.
If you take medication, be sure to check the labels before you get behind the wheel. Some medications can cause drowsiness so it’s important that you talk to your doctor about any side effects of your prescription before driving.
Recognize when you’re getting sleepy and allow yourself to take a break. If you need to pull over to a safe spot for a nap, do it! Taking a quick power nap is an awesome way to get your energy back up. Let your nap be at least 10 minutes long but no longer than 45 minutes.
2. Alcohol and Drug Use
Drinking alcohol or using drugs while driving a car is dangerous enough but add in a 40-ton truck and substance abuse reaches a whole new level. Driving a truck is by no means an easy job. It’s incredibly demanding both physically and mentally—particularly when it pulls you away from your family. This could be why the second highest cause for trucking accidents is alcohol and drug use. While some drivers take these substances as they take breaks at rest stops or in a town along their journey, others take them while driving. This clearly has a negative effect on the driver and can result in accidents due to clouded judgment, poor coordination, and slow reaction time.
3. Poor Driver Training
According to Jeff Warren, truck drivers are required training to meet certain standards before hitting the road. However, not every truck driver is good at what he does, and the minimum hours required for training are usually not enough. Add to the fact that nearly 99% of all truck drivers have no previous trucking experience, and you have a recipe for disaster. Poor truck maintenance is also another problem, as not everyone adheres to the laws before hitting the road.
4. Overspeeding and Overtaking
Because of hard-to-meet deadlines, truck drivers may feel the need to drive much too fast in order to make it to their destination in time. This tends to lead to careless driving as well. Driving over the speed limit isn’t hard to do when you’re put under vast amounts of pressure to arrive somewhere quickly. Overtaking other cars on the road requires trucks to drive at break-neck speeds, which tends to force other cars to steer off the road, resulting in crashes. Speeding also drastically reduces your reaction time and the amount of time you’ll have available to reach a complete stop in an emergency.
Driving for 14 hours can be boring as hell. This usually gets the truck driver sleepy, so he has to look for something that will keep him awake and occupied. This urge to kill the boredom leads to drivers texting or browsing social media. They can also mingle with the radio station, and this is something that distracts you quite a bit. As a matter of fact, changing the radio station while driving at high speeds is a very common cause of an accident.
A Final Note
Because of the size and weight of the truck, trucking accidents are some of the most fatal. Do everything you can to remain alert and energized behind the wheel. If you feel that being overworked has resulted in an accident, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from experienced truck accident lawyers.