One of the most important tasks any driver takes on is monitoring the road for risks. There's no way to foresee every issue, but by being vigilant, it is pretty easy to minimize your risks and increase your safety on the road. If you spend a lot of time on the major traffic arteries through town or on the freeways, a large part of that probably involves learning to safely share the road with professional drivers, especially the long distance drivers who help carry goods and raw materials around the country.
While it is fairly easy to learn the mechanical differences between a big rig and your average vehicle, safely accounting for those differences is not enough to keep you safe. You also need to understand how the demands of the job might affect individual driving performances and how to spot a driver who might be getting drowsy behind the wheel.
How big is the risk?
If you want to understand exactly how much risk is posed by driver fatigue, you only need to look at the research available through federal offices like the Department of Transportation, which recently put out a statement noting that of the approximately 30,000 deaths in automobile accidents each year, approximately 4,000 are caused by accidents with trucks. In that statement, the research into driver fatigue is brought up. That research shows:
- Driving behavior is a big factor in driver fatigue, including drivers who circumvent rules limiting working hours or mandating rest.
- Split sleeping is actually better for driving vigilance than sleeping only during the day.
- The adoption of safety devices, such as alert systems, contributes to a reduction in accidents
- About 13 percent of all fatal accidents involving large trucks or buses directly related to driver fatigue.
Along with these findings, the research submitted to the National Research Council Committee on National Statistics also notes that there is still a lot of work to be done here because of a close examination of the exact role between fatigue and accidents.
If you are in an accident
Most of the time, fatigued drivers exhibit the classic signs of reckless driving for a little while. Those can include weaving and missing traffic signals. It is entirely possible that fatigued drivers could have an unpredictable momentary lapse, though, and in that case, you need to talk to an attorney about whether you have a claim for damages, because when drivers choose to work while fatigued, the risk is just as real as when they use drugs or alcohol.