Truck accidents can be far more deadly than a crash with regular motor vehicles. While regular cars typically weigh about 3,000 pounds, even an empty tractor trailer weighs close to ten times that much. When it is full of cargo, a truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The physical force that all of this additional weight brings into a collision is often enough to make the crash far more severe and significantly raise the odds that the other people involved will suffer a severe or even fatal personal injury.
Truck drivers are supposed to be held to a higher standard when it comes to driving safely. For example, they cannot have nearly as much alcohol in their bloodstream as a regular driver to be convicted of drunk driving. However, that is about where the higher expectations end.
Despite the increased danger of a truck accident, rules regulating how long truckers are allowed to drive are not rigidly enforced, leaving them on the roads of the District of Columbia when they are tired and fatigued. Because tired drivers cause more accidents than those who are adequately rested, this can result in an increased risk of a truck accident that can alter your life or the life of someone you love.
Relaxed Regulations on How Long Truckers Can Drive
Federal regulations are supposed to limit how long a truck driver can be on the road. The goal of these regulations is to make sure that truck drivers are well rested and are not driving while fatigued or overtired. However, the enforcement of these regulations is so relaxed that many truck drivers simply ignore them in order to make more money or to satisfy their employers.
The federal regulations that control how long a truck driver can be behind the wheel generally require truckers to drive only up to 11 hours without taking a rest, and only up to 77 hours every week. However, monitoring truck drivers to make sure they were complying with the regulations has been an uphill task. Truckers and trucking companies both make money by delivering cargo to its destination more quickly than their competitors, so underreporting hours on the road or simply not recording them at all is a common tactic used to allow drivers to reach their destinations quicker. In fact, one survey found that truck drivers drove for longer than the regulations allowed them to drive on a regular basis.
Tired Drivers Cause More Accidents Than Rested Ones
For anyone who has been behind the wheel while fatigued, it does not come as a surprise that tired drivers cause more accidents than well-rested ones. However, the statistics that confirm this are shocking.
According to a report by AAA, drivers who missed out on several hours of sleep the night before were more likely to cause an accident than drivers who were drunk. In the study, drivers who had gotten a normal night's sleep of seven hours were compared to those who had missed out on several hours the night before causing an accident.
The study found that drivers who had only gotten between four and five hours of sleep the night before driving were 4.3 times more likely to cause a crash. Drivers who got less than four hours of sleep were 11.5 times more likely to cause an accident than a well-rested driver. This made tired drivers more likely to cause a crash than drunk drivers who had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above – drivers over the legal BAC limit only caused crashes between 2.7 to 3.9 times more often than a sober driver.
While the study by AAA focused on drivers of passenger vehicles, rather than truck drivers, other studies show that the difference is minimal. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted a study where they highlighted factors that contributed to no fewer than 967 truck accidents in 17 different states between 2001 and 2003. In the study, 7.5% of the truck accidents involved a trucker who was driving while fatigued or tired. When applied to the estimated 141,000 truck accidents that happened nationwide during the period of the study, this amounted to approximately 5,000 truck crashes that involved a tired truck driver.
Truck Accidents Hurt Innocent Drivers
It is a sad fact that these truck accidents are far more dangerous to innocent drivers than they are to the truckers who cause them. Because of the truck's weight and its increased height from the ground, passenger vehicles that are involved in a truck accident are often damaged far more than the truck, with the occupants in them bearing the worst injuries in the crash.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), since 1975, only 15% of the deaths that have resulted from fatal truck accidents have been to the truck driver. This means that 85% of the time, the fatality in a truck crash has been someone in a passenger vehicle. This is largely due to the fact that the weight of the truck and the height of the cab keep the truck driver far more protected than anyone in a passenger vehicle that happens to be involved in the accident.
Washington, D.C. Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
Even though Washington, D.C. only has a small handful of miles of roadway, the truck traffic that funnels through our city makes a truck accident a serious worry for many residents. If such a crash does happen, it can lead to serious or even fatal personal injuries to you or a loved one.
This is where the personal injury attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. By representing your legal rights and interests both in and out of court, we can ensure that you get the compensation that you need and deserve in order to make a full recovery. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.