Driver Fatigue and Road Accidents in West Palm Beach
It’s an unfortunate fact that there are many individuals who decide to drive their car or truck when they haven’t had sufficient sleep. This will invariably increase the risk of a vehicle crash. A 2018 study of driver fatigue and road accidents conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that approximately one out of every 10 vehicle accidents occur as a result of driver fatigue. In many cases, the results of these accidents are devastating.
There are generally two main causes of accidents caused by driver fatigue. The first is operating a vehicle during times when the driver is normally asleep and the second relates to a lack of adequate sleep.
Drowsy driving is a factor in nearly 10 percent of crashes nationwide, according to a 2018 study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety. In addition, drowsiness was a factor in vehicle crashes at over three times the rate during the hours of darkness.
It was also noted by Florida Department of Transportation that young people (especially males under 26 years of age) are at the greatest risk of driver fatigue and road accidents. Additionally, those who work irregular shifts consisting of both day and night work schedules, are also subject to a higher risk of fatigued-related driving accidents.
One of the more frightening aspects of driving-while-fatigued is that struggling to remain awake and alert under those conditions can be just as hazardous as drunk driving! The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine published a 2012 study that indicated driving while drowsy presents nearly as much risk as driving after the consumption of alcohol. In either case, that driver is operating a motor vehicle with impaired reflexes and senses. A driver who is fatigued experiences slower though processes and their judgment is impaired,
Fatigue can cause a driver to fail to recognize and react to a hazardous traffic situation with enough time to respond. This is also true of drunk driving. However, unlike driving under the influence (DUI), there is currently no breathalyzer or blood test that will indicate a driver’s level of fatigue. A fatigued driver in West Palm Beach can also briefly nod off for a few seconds. This is ample time for them to drift over to an oncoming lane of traffic or veer off the side of the road.
When it comes to driver fatigue and road accidents, tractor trailer drivers are exceptionally susceptible to this problem. The reason for this has to do with the fact that a commercial truck driver will, on many occasions, continue driving until they are seriously fatigued. This causes them to be slow in their response to sudden traffic changes and road hazard developments.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established regulations that deal with truck driver work hour limitations and other truck driver safety factors. These work hour limitations are:
For Drivers Carrying Property
- 11-Hour Driving Limit – May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 14-Hour Limit – May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Rest Brakes – May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed or a sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. Either of the short-haul exceptions in 395.1(e). [49 CFR 397.5] mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in break if no other duties are performed.
- 60/70 Hour Time Limit - May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
For Passenger Carrying Drivers
- 10-Hour Driving Limit – May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- 15-Hour Limit – May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
- 60/70-Hour Limit – May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
- Sleeper Berth Provision – Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.
Even though Federal Law has provisions that limit the number of driving hours that a commercial truck driver may operate a tractor-trailer each week, many truck drivers face unreasonable delivery deadlines. Incentives are also given in order to; keep drivers on the road, ignore the prescribed hours of service limitations, falsify driver logs and to keep driving even when they are feeling dangerously fatigued.
The problem of driver fatigue and road accidents has become so serious that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which monitors the commercial truck industry, has mandated that trucking companies install electronic logging devices in their tractor-trailers. This is designed to force compliance with the designated service hour limitations.
Of course, all truck drivers in West Palm Beach are required to adhere to all Federal and Florida laws that are designed to keep them from posing a threat to other drivers on the road. But in a situation involving a commercial driver, it most definitely needs to be determined if driver fatigued or illness was a factor in the accident. If so, then the driver is issued a Uniform Commercial Citation by the investigating officer.
A West Palm Beach motorist injured by a fatigued driver also may have a right to file a personal injury lawsuit against a truck driver who causes a serious accident, thus demanding restitution for losses that have been caused by the accident. Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies are required to carry much higher amounts of liability insurance because of the serious harm that a fully-loaded tractor-trailer can cause in a crash. As such, trucking companies may act quickly to deny any legal liability because of the money that’s involved. Therefore, you may need an experienced and aggressive lawyer representing your interests when it comes to pursuing compensation after a serious accident.
After extensive research, it’s been determined that there is a dangerous condition that affects commercial truck drivers. A report that was presented in 2007 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration confirmed that a relatively common medical condition, known as obstructive sleep apnea can cause a significant number of driver fatigue and road accidents. The reason why this condition is so serious is the fact that a commercial driver, who has this condition, can follow all of the rules set down for limited hours of service. Yet, they may still be severely fatigued enough to cause a devastating truck crash that may have been preventable.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition in which the muscles of the throat will relax intermittently, thus blocking a person’s airway while they sleep. The pauses that occur when the person’s throat is blocked are known as “apnea”, which means “without breathing”. When this occurs, blood oxygen levels are reduced. When this happens (hypoxia), then there may be damage to brain tissue. The results of this condition can be:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- Blood pressure increase
An obvious symptom of sleep apnea is drowsiness, concentration difficulty and severe fatigue. In addition, experiencing drowsiness while at work or driving is possible, even with suggested sleep periods, since obstructive sleep apnea prevents restorative sleep altogether.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that a commercial driver’s average life expectancy is less than 61, which is younger than the average American by 16 years. Even more alarming is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has estimated that nearly 30% of truck drivers suffer from some form of sleep apnea. This illustrates that it is a well-known fact that a significant number of truck drivers are subject to a condition that is known to cause drowsiness, poor concentration and severe fatigue. Therefore, they can be at a much higher risk of driver fatigue and road accidents.
When it comes to protecting your rights, there are some things that are suggested that you do, should you be involved in a West Palm Beach fatigued driver accident:
- Do your best to remain calm after the accident. Check yourself and any of your passengers for injuries. If there are any serious injuries, you should refrain from moving anyone unless it’s necessary in order to avoid additional harm. Then call 911 to request assistance.
- Collect your information so that you can give to the other driver(s) that have been involved in the accident. Do not become emotional when communicating with others. You should be ready when it comes to providing; auto insurance information, license plate number, driver’s license number, your name and address. Obtain the same information from other drivers. If a truck is involved, get the truck’s company name, any visible cargo and trailer information. You also have the option to allow the police to handle the information exchange, once they arrive.
- Always cooperate completely with law enforcement officers. Honestly answer any of their questions and follow their directions. However, don’t volunteer any information beyond what a law enforcement officer asks you. Refrain from either admitting or assigning blame for the accident.
- Do your best to document the accident and get any witness names and contact information. Take photos of the scene which include; injuries, vehicle damage and injuries. Do this from different angles, as well.
- Seek immediate medical care and treatment for any injuries that might have been sustained. Be aware that some injuries, that may now seem minor, can evolve into serious or even life-threatening conditions later.
- Get in touch with your insurance company. However, don’t volunteer any information that is not directly asked. Place no blame for the accident or minimize any injuries that have been suffered.
- Be very careful when dealing with insurance companies. When trucks are involved in bad crashes, their insurance company may try to get a statement from you. Do not volunteer any written or recorded account of the accident without the advice of a truck accident attorney. Never sign anything that you are given by either your insurance company or the insurance company of the trucking company without a truck accident attorney’s advice. You may be signing away any financial restitution that you are owed!
- Contact an experienced West Palm Beach attorney as soon as you are able. Even if the trucking company offers you what looks like a large sum of money, it will almost certainly be less than what you may deserve! A West Palm Beach attorney can advise you regarding your legal options and rights in a free initial consultation.
- Document everything that pertains to the accident. You should keep everything in one location (such as an “accident file”). This should also include your injury recovery information.
Proving driver fatigue in a vehicle accident can be a complicated process. An experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney can have the resources needed in order to assist you in handling your legal case.
When you have been involved in a West Palm driver fatigue accident, it’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney, in order to try to receive the best care and compensation that you rightfully deserve. Therefore, when you are involved in a West Palm Beach car accident, seek immediate medical care and contact a Florida personal injury attorney.
Discuss Your Case with a Truck Accident Personal Injury Attorney Serving West Palm Beach Today! If you were injured in a vehicle accident in West Palm Beach, turn to Frankl & Kominsky for comprehensive legal guidance. Call 561-800-8000 or use our Contact Form to set up a free consultation.