Whenever a vehicle accident involves a truck or tractor trailer, the potential personal injuries that can result become far more severe. While cars typically weigh about 3,000 pounds, even empty trucks weigh more than ten times as much. When they are full of cargo, tractor trailers can weigh 80,000 pounds or more. When this much weight is involved in a collision, everyone else involved is put at a significantly higher risk for a serious injury.
Unfortunately, truck accidents are a regular occurrence on the roads of Maryland and in Baltimore. One of the reasons why truck accidents happen so often is that truck drivers are often fatigued when they are behind the wheel. This is in part because of the pressure that professional truck drivers deliver their cargo to its destination before a certain time, which often requires them to skip sleep so they can make it before their deadline. While there are federal regulations that are supposed to prevent drivers from being on the road too much, those regulations are difficult to enforce and truck companies know it. Unfortunately, this increases the odds of you getting severely hurt in a truck accident because a truck driver was too tired to drive.
The Problem of Tired Truck Drivers
Drowsy driving is a serious problem on the roads of the United States. According to one report by AAA, drivers who do not get a good night's sleep significantly increase their chances of creating a car accident. When compared to a fully rested driver who got seven hours of sleep the night prior to driving, someone who got four to five hours of rest were 4.3 times more likely to be in an accident. Worse, drivers who got less than four hours of sleep were 11.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash than someone who got seven or more hours. For the purposes of comparison, drunk drivers were between 2.7 and 3.9 times more likely to be in a crash than a sober driver. This means that a tired driver is a worse driver than a drunk one.
Unfortunately, truck drivers are often pushed by their employers to get their deliveries done as quickly as possible, and the best way to make this happen is to drive deep into the night when there is no traffic to contend with. This often means that truck drivers are behind the wheel with very little sleep or are on a nontraditional sleeping schedule that can leave them confused or disoriented.
The statistics show just how dangerous this can be. In one study done by the Federal Motor Cattier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which investigated 967 crashes in 17 states between 2001 and 2003, and which involved a total of 1,127 large trucks, an estimated 7.5% of the truck drivers were found to be tired when the accident happened. When this percentage was applied to the estimated 141,000 trucks that were involved in crashes during that timeframe, it means that no fewer than 5,000 truck drivers were fatigued during an accident.
Relaxed Hours of Service Regulations
To try minimizing the impact of this issue, the federal government has used hours of service rules that prohibit truck drivers from being behind the wheel for too long in a given timeframe. Generally, these regulations require that truck drivers only drive up to 11 hours in one stretch, and only up to 77 hours over a period of seven days. However, surveys have found that truck drivers rarely follow these rules, instead of driving for more hours than they are allowed under the regulations.
Drivers and their trucking companies, after all, do not make money when a truck is sitting idle on the roadside while the driver sleeps. These companies make a profit delivering cargo to its destination, and every stop that the truck takes – whether for maintenance or so the driver can sleep and meet the requirements of the hours of service regulations – slows that delivery down. Therefore, truckers are under pressure from their bosses or from their deadlines to skip sleep and ignore the federal regulations so they can make their deliveries on time. Unfortunately, this puts other drivers on the road at risk for significant injuries, which is exactly what the federal hours of service regulations were designed to prevent.
Truck Accidents are More Serious than Other Crashes
To make matters even worse, when truck accidents do happen, they lead to significantly worse injuries than other kinds of accidents. The additional weight of a truck in a crash results in more severe damage to the other vehicles involved, which means that other drivers in the crash are more likely to suffer significant personal injuries. In most cases, it is the other drivers in a truck accident that suffer the worst injuries: Since 1975, truck drivers have typically only accounted for about 15% of the deaths every year in fatal accidents involving large trucks.
Even when the accident is not a fatal one, the weight of the truck and the height of the cab often keep the truck driver far more protected in an accident. When the accident was caused by the driver being fatigued, though, this can seem unfair to all of the other drivers who were involved, and who are far more likely to have suffered significant and often life-altering injuries.
Baltimore Truck Accident Attorneys Gilman & Bedigian
No vehicle accident is something that you want to be involved in. However, when a tractor-trailer or other large truck is included in the wreck, your chances of suffering a debilitating or fatal increase substantially.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident near Baltimore because the truck driver was fatigued, you need a personal injury attorney to represent you both in and out of court to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the law office of Gilman & Bedigian by calling us at (800) 529-6162 or by contacting us online.