San Antonio, Texas
Tragedy struck on January 23, 2021, when an 18 wheeler flew off of an I-37 overpass and crashed, bursting into flames. The trapped driver was unable to escape before flames engulfed the cab. According to investigators, the truck struck a guard rail and bridge abutment before toppling over the guard rail and falling. Another vehicle was struck by part of the truck but the occupants were fortunate to not be seriously injured.
Driver Fatigue Can Be Fatal
It would appear that driver fatigue was a likely cause of this 18 wheeler truck accident. The truck driver’s wife Mrs. Moore said she had talked to her husband just 30 minutes prior to the accident and he had mentioned to her how tired he was but didn’t want to pull over because he didn’t want to lose his job. Driver fatigue is common among truck drivers The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that 13% of all commercial motor vehicle collisions involve a fatigued truck driver. The number of fatalities involving a drowsy driver was 775 in 2018.
Fatigue can cause a sizeable range of other physical, mental, and emotional symptoms including:
- chronic tiredness or sleepiness
- sore or aching muscles
- muscle weakness
- slowed reflexes and responses
- impaired decision-making and judgment
- moodiness, such as irritability
Driving Restrictions on Commercial Motor Vehicles
Federal law limits the hours a truck driver may operate an 18-wheeler to help prevent driver fatigue. A truck driver hauling a load has the following restrictions:
- They may not drive for more than 60 hours in one week or 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days.
- They may not drive beyond the 14th hour after having been off-duty 10 consecutive hours.
- They may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. (This is a mandatory break that applies unless certain exceptions apply.)
- They may only drive a maximum of 11 hours total after having taken 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must spend at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
Who is Liable for a Drowsy Driving Commercial Vehicle Accident?
A driver who is drifting off behind the wheel or else impaired due to fatigue and continues to drive is acting negligently. If the driver’s negligence results in injury to or the death of another person, he or she is responsible for the damages. If a commercial truck driver is driving while impaired by sleep deprivation because his or her employer imposes unrealistic expectations or has instructed him to disregard hours in service regulations, the employer may also be liable for damages caused by drowsy drivers to the injured parties or the survivors of victims of fatal accidents.
Unfortunately for the Moore family, the often-ignored serious nature of fatigued driving has become a sobering reality.