Truck accident attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, California, addresses fatigue as a cause for commercial truck accidents.

How Fatigue Contributes to Commercial Truck Accidents in Southern California

According to the National Safety Council, semi-truck accidents claim the lives of hundreds of Californians each year. The Golden State has the second-highest number of annual commercial truck fatalities behind only Texas. This trend has gotten worse in recent years because of driver shortages in the trucking industry and related issues.

Transport Dive reports that the industry is short about 78,000 drivers as of the fall of 2022, which is a slight improvement over the record 81,000 vacancies in 2021, but still the second-highest number of vacancies on record. They go on to say that the trucking industry needs to recruit about 1.2 million drivers over the next 10 years just to replace the drivers that will leave the industry during the coming years.

Commercial truck driver shortages lead to all kinds of other problems in the industry. Consumers have felt some of these problems directly with the supply chain issues, for example. But some of the other issues are not as widely known, such as the number of inexperienced and inadequately trained drivers on the road, as well as the intense pressure that truckers are under to deliver their loads on time.

The latter issue has vastly increased the likelihood of drowsy driving in the trucking industry. Drivers are more tired and fatigued than ever before, and this is not a good state of mind to be in when you are operating an 18-wheeler that can weigh up to 40 tons when it is fully loaded.

How Common is Truck Driver Fatigue?

Drowsy driving is far more widespread among motorists than most people realize. The National Safety Council found that one out of every 25 adult drivers reported in a survey that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel within the last 30 days, and many more survey respondents admit to having driven while they were sleep-deprived. They go on to say that an estimated 6,400 individuals die each year in crashes that involve drowsy driving.

While anyone who is sleep deprived is susceptible to driving while drowsy or fatigued, commercial drivers are among the groups that are at the highest risk for this type of problem. Truckers typically drive for several hours without a break, and they are more prone to push their limits in order to meet tight deadlines.

Commercial truck drivers also tend to do significantly more night driving than most other motorists. Driving during evenings and overnights is typical in the trucking industry, because this is the time of day when there is far less traffic on the road.

Driving during odd hours when it is dark outside tends to make motorists sleepier and more fatigued. This is why the majority of drowsy driving episodes occur between the hours of 9 PM and 6 AM.

How Drowsy Driving Contributes to Truck Accidents

Drowsy and fatigued driving happens primarily because of a lack of sleep. However, certain medications can contribute to sleepiness behind the wheel, as well as sleep disorders that leave a driver fatigued and unable to stay awake and alert during their shift.

Clearly, the biggest hazard that can result from drowsy driving is falling asleep behind the wheel. When a motorist goes to sleep, especially one who is operating a large commercial truck, it can result in catastrophic consequences. The worst part about this is that many people do not realize when they cross the line from being sleepy to actually falling asleep. It can happen in an instant without any warning.

In addition to falling asleep while driving, drowsiness behind the wheel also negatively impacts how someone drives in a number of different ways. Among these include:

  • Lack of Focus: When a truck driver is tired or fatigued, they have a hard time focusing while they are behind the wheel. Their eyes can get blurry, and their peripheral vision is limited. This vastly increases the likelihood of missing important things that are happening on the road, such as another vehicle entering their blind spot or a pedestrian crossing the street in front of them.
  • Slower Reaction Times: Drowsy driving causes some of the same effects as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When a driver is sleepy, it takes them longer to react to adverse situations that may arise, such as the need to hit the brakes when a vehicle in front of them stops abruptly.
  • Poor Judgment: Drowsiness and fatigue cause the brain to slow down, which creates more difficulty in making safe judgments on the road. For example, drowsy drivers have a harder time accurately judging speeds and distances, which means they could unknowingly be driving too fast or too slow based on the conditions that they are in.

Warning Signs of Drowsy or Fatigued Driving

It is very important for truck drivers and all motorists to be aware of the warning signs that they are getting too fatigued or sleepy to operate their vehicles safely:

  • Yawning. Yawning repeatedly is a clear sign that you are getting tired, and your body needs rest.
  • Lack of focus. If your vision is getting blurry, your eyes are blinking excessively, and you are having trouble keeping your eyes open, these are signs that you are losing focus and getting close to falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Heavy head. If your head feels heavy and you are having difficulty holding it up in a neutral position while you drive, this is another sign that you’re getting sleepy.
  • Restlessness/irritability. If you are feeling impatient, restless, and irritable when you are driving, this might be a sign of excessive fatigue.
  • Missing exits. Some signs that your mind is wandering and you might be getting sleepy include forgetting where you are and missing exits and turns you are supposed to make.
  • Lane drift. A tired or fatigued driver will often start drifting in and out of their lane, which can obviously be very dangerous, especially if there are other vehicles nearby.

If any of these or other warning signs appear when you are behind the wheel, it is best to pull over and take a break from driving. No matter how much of a hurry you are in, it is simply not worth the risk to stay on the road when you are sleepy or fatigued.

Injured in a Drowsy Driving Truck Accident in Southern California? Contact a Reputable Rancho Cucamonga, CA Attorney

Drowsiness and fatigue are often major contributors to commercial trucking accidents, and when they occur, those who are injured deserve to be fully compensated. If you or someone close to you got hurt or killed in a truck accident in San Bernardino County or anywhere in Southern California, Muhareb Law Group is here to help!

Our firm has extensive experience successfully representing California truck accident injury victims, and we work closely with our clients to ensure their legal rights are protected, and that those who cause their injuries are held fully accountable.

Call our office today at (909) 519-5832 or message us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our legal team.