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Fatigue – The Hidden Killer In Trucking Accidents

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In March 1995 the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a National Truck and Bus Safety Summit. The goal was to bring together representatives of the many organizations involved in motor carrier safety to prioritize the safety issues facing the industry. This comprehensive assembly came to the consensus that driver fatigue was the number one safety issue. Over 15 years later, this issue remains the number one safety issue for commercial truck driver.

In the context of a serious trucking accident, fatigue is a variable that must be considered by the personal injury attorney representing the injured and/or the family of a deceased. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”)

Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities, or a combination of other factors

Experts typically go further in their analysis and address fatigue from the standpoint of affecting vigilance, attention, perception and decision making processes for the truck driver. The object of the expert is to measure the effect of these objective effects in the terms of the crash at issue. Of course the most infamous form of fatigue is drowsiness – the tendency to fall asleep at the wheel. However, fatigued driving is not limited to falling asleep behind the wheel. An experienced attorney with his or her team of experts must be prepared to analyze fatigue in each and every serious injury case. The following is a good video of the effects of fatigue as compared to drinking and driving.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HburJp4cNMI

A recent and comprehensive study entitled “The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, Phase II – Results of the 100-Car Field Experiment,” DOT HS 810 593, Washington, D.C., 2006, monitored the driving experiences of 241 drivers for 1 year with extensive video and other instrumentation for over approximately 1,000,000 miles of driving. The investigators found that inattention was a contributing factor for 93% of the rear-end crashes and minor collisions An additional analysis of the data in a subsequent study entitled “The Impact of Driver Inattention on Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study Data,” DOT HS 810 594, Washington, D.C, 2006 found that the data revealed that driving while drowsy increased an individual’s crash risk by four to six times.

In each and every serious injury or death case we recommend the attorney and/or his retained expert perform an analysis of the driver’s work-rest history. What that means is the attorney must obtain relevant documents such as drivers logs, trip receipts, fuel receipts, satellite tracking data, communication data and other produced items and recreate the trip history of the driver.

For example, a recent case I litigated involved a question of driver fatigue. My habit when presented with a fatigue question is to head to a conference table with 5 poster boards. I then recreate what the driver logged on his record of duty status with each poster board representing a single day. From there, I then begin analyzing the forensic evidence available. For example, in the recent case I litigated I was able to take satellite data provided from the truck and place it into the recreated logs. I then took fuel receipts and communication data and placed it into the recreated logs. What I found was amazing. For several days prior, the truck driver had painstakingly fabricated his logs to show compliance with Federal Regulation driving times. However, the forensic evidence showed that he was receiving less than 4 hours a sleep for the previous five (5) nights.

Why do I describe the above example? The reason is that at first blush the drivers logs appeared to be in compliance with the Federal Regulations. The driver had even taken the time to make sure his fuel receipts and weight tickets matched his logs. If I hadn’t examined his logs in-depth, it would have never been discovered that he was suffering from diminished perception and reaction times at the time of the collision and my client would have accepted a lesser result than what he was entitled too. This example underscores the importance of having an experienced attorney to litigate a trucking accident case.

I have described the above to illustrate what to look for after an accident. However, in coming days I plan to provide our readers with tips to avoid fatigue driving. I hope you continue to follow us on this subject. Its an important aspect of safety and making sure famlies receive the best legal counsel available in a trucking accident case.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an Oklahoma or nationwide trucking accident, please contact me and the personal injury lawyers of McIntyre Law by calling toll free 1-877-917-5250.

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  1. Thomas says:
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    Great article. We all know of the dangers of distracted driving, cell phone use, and the effect drugs and alcohol have on your reaction time behind the wheel, but driver fatigue as you pointed on can be just as dangerous.