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Driver fatigue and truck accidents

New Jersey residents may not be aware that large truck accidents kill nearly 5,000 people on average each year. Around 30 to 40 percent of large truck accidents are the result of driver fatigue. Driver fatigue comes about from working shifts made up of long hours of continuous driving with little or no breaks. These shifts may be scheduled in such a way that does not allow for sufficient rest and sleep time in between. This can lead to impaired reaction time and falling asleep at the wheel leading to a crash.

Seventy-five percent of truck crashes that involved a truck running off the road involved fatigue as a primary factor in the accident, according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board. According to research conducted in Australia, about 20 percent of large truck accidents are the result of sleep deprivation on the part of the driver.

Safety regulations have been proposed that would reduce driver fatigue. These measures include a required 9 to 12 hours of continuous rest during each 24 hour period, installing Electronic On-Boards Recorders in large trucks which would record the amount of time on the road a driver has put in each week, capping weekly work hours at 60 and requiring two to three hours of break time during each shift.

These rules would still allow driver to still work 12 hour shifts and work six days in a row. They do not differentiate between driving time and other duties which means that some drivers could spend their rest time loading vehicles or on dispatch. Therefore, it is unclear if their implementation would lead to fewer crashes.

An individual who is injured in a truck accident that was caused by driver fatigue may be eligible for financial compensation. The driver or the company the driver works for may be held liable for the accident. A personal injury attorney may be able to offer guidance with regard to what legal options are available.

Source: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, "Truck Driver Fatigue", November 07, 2014

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