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Often, motor vehicle accidents in Centre County involving tractor trailers occur when commercial trucking companies force tractor trailer truck drivers to work long hours while experiencing fatigue or sleep deprivation. The results can be deadly. Sleep deprivation is to blame for 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,550 deaths every year. Studies suggest that up to 50% of all commercial trucking crashes are a result of sleep deprivation and recent surveys of long haul truck drivers reported that 66% of drivers acknowledge experiencing fatigue in half of their trips. Even more concerning, 13% of those drivers reported actually falling asleep at the wheel. Operating a vehicle while fatigued is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated and can severely affect a driver’s ability to operate a commercial trucking vehicle. Driving while fatigued can increase the need for reaction time, increase distractibility and confusion and decrease attention and vigilance while driving.

Long distance truck drivers are particularly susceptible to the effects of sleep deprivation because they operate vehicles during varying hours and often very late at night, disrupting their natural sleep patterns. A sleep deprived driver involved in an accident can have devastating consequences, frequently causing multiple fatalities and injuries.

New federal regulations now limit the amount of hours truckers can work consecutively and all truckers are subject to Hours of Service (HOS), which require them to keep records of all their time on the road. Truckers are now subject to 14 hours limits by federal law, but while designed to increase safety in the commercial trucking industry, these hourly regulations have removed the flexibility that enabled truck drivers to take 2 to 3 hour breaks if needed and continue driving. Drivers are now forced to max out the 14 hours instead to increase profitability, and this can have dangerous implications, resulting in accidents and loss of life.

These recent changes in federal regulations have received increased scrutiny as a result of the 2014 crash in which comedian Tracy Morgan was injured. Walmart driver Kevin Roper rear-ended the limo carrying Morgan and 6 other passengers, killing comedian James McNair and causing traumatic injuries for Tracy Morgan and 3 other passengers. Crash investigators determined that Roper was awake for more than 28 consecutive hours, after driving 12 hours to start his shift. The crash occurred just about a half-hour short of the 14 hour duty limit imposed by government law. Since the crash Walmart has settled lawsuits with the involved parties and has updated its policies regarding driving safety.

Despite new HOS rules intended to increase vehicle safety and reduce accidents, over 60% of long haul drivers have indicated increased fatigue as a result of the new rules. Fatigue and sleep deprivation in trucking operations is likely to continue to be a major problem in the commercial trucking industry and is a dangerous combination that leads to accidents and injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a commercial trucking accident, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Rehmeyer & Allatt for a free consultation of your case.