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Commercial truck drivers at high risk for drowsy driving

Drowsy driving leads to an estimated 100,000 annual car accidents in North Carolina and across the U.S. Among these crashes, those involving commercial trucks and big rigs are the most likely to end in catastrophic injuries and even death. This is understandable as cars cannot compare to trucks in terms of size and weight.

Unfortunately, commercial truck drivers are also at a higher risk for drowsy driving than anyone else. They spend long hours on the road and are often pressured by their employers into meeting strict deadlines. Some companies offer bonuses and incentives for truckers who deliver their loads ahead of schedule. This encourages them to continue driving even when they are fatigued.

Drowsiness impairs a driver's judgment, reflexes and reaction times. While many believe they have control over what time they fall asleep, this is not always true. Their attention is also compromised as they focus their energies more on keeping awake. When falling asleep, drivers can swerve into cars and pedestrians in the other lane or go off the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has instituted an hours of service schedule limiting truckers to 14 consecutive hours of driving. It also mandates a break in the first eight service hours and requires truckers to take 10 off-duty hours before starting their next shift.

When 18-wheeler accidents are the result of drowsy driving, victims can speak with legal counsel about being compensated. For those whose injuries have rendered them incapacitated, the family can step in and file the claim. Lawyers could hire accident investigators to help bring together the proof of a trucker's negligence. They may then negotiate for a fair settlement with the trucking company's own team of lawyers.

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