While being involved in any kind of motor vehicle accident in or around Philadelphia can change your life for the worse, truck accidents are especially bad to be involved in. Large trucks like flatbeds and tractor trailers weigh exponentially more than a regular passenger vehicle. While normal typically weigh in the vicinity of 3,000 pounds, even empty trucks are ten times as heavy. However, tractor trailers that are full of cargo – and they almost always are, as driving an empty truck does not make either the trucker or the trucking company any money – can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Additionally, the higher profile of a tractor trailer makes any collision that they are in cause serious damage to any other vehicle that was involved. Finally, the fact that trucks tend to stick to the highways around Philadelphia, like I-95 or I-76, means that any truck accident is likely one that happened at high speeds.
These truck accidents happen more often when the truck driver is tired, fatigued, or overworked. Unfortunately, because trucking is a for-profit business, truck drivers are pushed to their limits while on the road to bring their cargo to its destination as quickly as possible. As a result, they are often behind the wheel when they should not be – when they are so tired that the risk of them causing an accident is much higher than it should be. If this leads to a truck accident, it could severely injure you or someone you love.
Tired Truck Drivers Cause More Accidents
Anyone who has been on the road for a long period of time knows that their ability to drive safely decreases the more tired they get. The longer you are awake, the more difficult it is to focus on the road and react appropriately and quickly enough to a driving hazard. With a decreased ability to do these basic driving skills, your chances of causing an accident increase dramatically.
A study by AAA puts these increased dangers into solid numbers. The study looked at drivers who did not get enough sleep the night before they were involved in a car accident and compared their crash rates with those of drivers who had gotten the recommended seven hours. The results of the study found that driving with a lack of sleep was equivalent to driving while drunk.
According to the study, drivers who missed an hour of sleep or less crashed 1.3 times more often than drivers on a full night's rest, and those who missed between one and two hours of sleep had a crash rate of 1.9 times higher than a rested driver. However, drivers who missed between two and three hours of sleep crashed 4.3 times as often as a rested driver, while those who missed more than three hours had an estimated crash rate of an astounding 11.5 times that of a normal driver. For the sake of comparison, drunk drivers – those who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above – cause car accidents between 2.7 and 3.9 times as often as sober drivers. This makes drivers who got less than five hours of sleep more dangerous than a drunk driver.
While AAA's study focused on car drivers, a study done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) showed that the problem also applied to truckers. The FMCSA's study found that 7.5% of the truck accidents involving an injury between 2001 and 2003 that they investigated involved a truck driver who was fatigued.
Weakly Enforced Regulations Let Truckers Drive Too Long
Federal regulations have been passed to ensure that truck drivers do not drive when they are so tired that it is unsafe. However, these regulations have been regularly attacked and lobbied against by the trucking industry, and have been so gutted that they are almost powerless to stop it from happening.
These regulations, called hours of service regulations, set limits on how long a truck driver can be on the road in a set period of time. They generally prohibit truckers from driving for more than 11 hours without taking a break, or for more than 77 hours every seven days.
However, the enforcement mechanisms behind these regulations are notoriously relaxed and poorly-designed. Truckers and trucking companies are expected to report their own hours behind the wheel in log books, but they both have a vested interest in ignoring or violating these rules. Truckers typically make money by the mile driven, while trucking companies make a profit by delivering cargo as quickly as possible. Both of these can be done more easily if truckers were allowed to drive all day and night, so their log books are often filled with inaccuracies or outright lies to suggest they are following the hours of service regulations when, in reality, they are not. Underreporting hours on the road is such a common thing to do that truck drivers even admitted to doing it on a regular basis in one survey with disastrous results: In 2005, one out of five of the truckers surveyed reported having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month.
Gilman & Bedigian: Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorneys
Truck accidents are serious. Worse, the people who suffer the most in a truck accident are the innocent drivers in passenger vehicles that get hit by the truck. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in the past forty years, 85% of those killed in truck accidents were occupants of the car that was hit.
This is why the personal injury attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian represent accident victims in and around the city of Philadelphia. Tired truck drivers cause accidents all the time on our roads, and innocent drivers are often the ones to get hurt. It would be the height of injustice to expect those accident victims to pay for the costs of their own recovery, so we represent them in court to get them the compensation they deserve.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident in Philadelphia, contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.