Like every state in the union, Tennessee sees its share of big rigs. Thousands of them travel the interstates and highways on their way to who knows where. Many pass through without a trace, but some leave an indelible mark on the people they encounter. Far too many news stories involve the serious injury or death of someone who unexpectedly encountered a tired truck driver.
Truck drivers spend several hours on the road each day. Anyone who has driven hundreds of miles in one day knows that it can make you tired. That might seem counterintuitive, considering you are just sitting, but it takes a surprising amount of energy. When a truck driver fails to take the time to recharge, it can provide a recipe for disaster.
So what should truckers be doing to avoid fatigue?
The answer to stopping truck drivers from being fatigued as they travel is simple. They need to take steps to ensure they get good rest before they get behind the wheel of a massively large and heavy vehicle that could easily turn into a death machine.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration understands this danger and enforces regulations designed to keep this type of accident from occurring. In fact, the FMCSA published a list of tips for truckers designed to help them understand the importance of avoiding driver fatigue. Those tips include the following:
- Get adequate sleep: This sounds simple, but often, truckers drive late into the night to avoid large amounts of traffic, to avoid the heat or any other number of reasons. Your natural circadian rhythms make you less alert at night, even if you slept during the day. Truckers who drive at night are fighting biology, which could cause fatigue in and of itself.
- Don't take medications that cause drowsiness: Some over-the-counter medications cause drowsiness, and truckers should refrain from using them while driving. If a trucker fails to adhere to the warning labels, an accident could result.
- Recognize the signs of fatigue: Heavy eyes, excessive yawning and blurred vision all signal the need to rest. You may also have your own clues to know when you are tired in addition to these fairly universal signs.
- Don't rely on tricks to stay awake: Even when a trucker realizes that he or she is tired, stopping may not be the first option. Instead, a trucker may use caffeine, nicotine and other common stimulants in an attempt to stay alert. Some will even use medications or illegal drugs to ensure they make a deadline. Rolling down the windows and turning up the music are just as ineffective in the end.
- Take a nap: Whether it's a power nap of 10 to 20 minutes or a refreshing 45-minute nap, stopping and taking a nap often helps. Drivers may think they can't spare this kind of time, but an accident would put them even more behind schedule.
- Eat healthy: Sporadic meals and bad dietary habits could make fatigue worse. Even going to bed without eating can cause fatigue, since sleep may not be restful.
When a driver fails to stave off fatigue, he or she becomes a danger to everyone on the road. Response time, attention span and other negative behaviors could lead to an accident.
Proving the driver was fatigued after an accident
You may agree that failing to follow the above advice could result in an accident, but proving trucker fatigue is another matter entirely. Actually, using the above tips, an investigation into the 24 or more hours prior to the accident could reveal signs that the trucker was tired and may have even fallen asleep at the wheel.
This information could establish negligence and that negligence led to the injuries you suffered or to the death of your loved one. Gathering the information and evidence you need may require some help. Fortunately, there are experienced attorneys here in Tennessee and Kentucky who can assist you with this and the litigation process.