Ever since its founding in 1755, Laredo has been a crucial transportation hub. Sitting at the southern end of I-35 on the north bank of the Rio Grande, Laredo is among the oldest border crossings between the U.S. and Mexico. Four highway bridges and a railway bridge span the Rio Grande to cross the border at Laredo. It is the largest inland port of entry from a foreign nation in the United States.
Laredo is a critical transportation hub—and that means more than two-million trucks pass through each year. With that much 18-wheeler traffic comes the inevitable risk of traffic accidents involving those trucks. As happens too often with that volume of truck traffic, you run the risk of one of those accidents every time you get behind the wheel.
Should this happen to you, you need to contact a law firm experienced with truck accidents. The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorneys at Law, has that experience. We are open, for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-898-4877, or you may contact us now by CLICKING HERE to submit your case for review.
Many Truckers Coming Through Laredo are on Very Long Hauls
The North American Free Trade Agreement fuels much of the commercial truck traffic passing through the Laredo area. Better known as NAFTA, the trade treaty eliminated many of the trade barriers between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. As a result, much of the truck traffic passing through Laredo is coming from or traveling to distant places in Mexico or Canada. Often, these truckers are driving long hours, which can be dangerous even if regulations permit those hours. Those truckers can be tired, and that can lead to trouble.
Over-the-road drivers of the 18-wheeler tractor-trailers that carry most goods to the stores in America where they await consumers operate under a complicated array of federal regulations that dictate how long drivers can drive each day. Even so, commercial truck drivers are allowed to drive for periods of time that could result in most people handing over driving duties to someone else. Because time is money, many drivers end up driving while fatigued, even while obeying regulations. It is easy to see that drivers might be fatigued even when they are complying with regulations, which allow them to stay behind the wheel for 11 hours at a time before taking a break.
National Trucking Accident Attorney Stewart J. Guss discusses trucking safety on national news with Mike Papantonio on America’s Lawyer
Driver Fatigue is a Significant Factor in Commercial Truck Accidents
Even though commercial truck drivers’ hours behind the wheel are subject to significant federal regulations, driver fatigue remains a major contributing factor to accidents involving tractor-trailers. Federal statistics indicate that truck driver fatigue is a factor in about 13 percent of all commercial motor vehicle accidents.
Likewise, the federal government has found that driver fatigue is a significant contributor to poor driver performance. Tired drivers have slower response times, have more trouble paying attention to the road, and often suffer from poor decision-making. All of these symptoms of driver fatigue can contribute to decreases in driver performance, resulting in an increased risk of crashes. And, of course, there is always the ultimate decrease in driver performance caused by driver fatigue—falling asleep at the wheel.
Truck drivers, unfortunately, have seemingly endless incentives to stay behind the wheel for the maximum time allowed under federal regulations. A severe shortage of truck drivers has shippers scrambling to get loads delivered with a workforce that is 50,000 truckers short. This places pressure on shippers and their drivers to work every available minute. Further, many truckers are paid by the mile or by the trip, which encourages them to be behind the wheel as much as the regulations will allow, even if they need rest. Tired drivers make mistakes, such as not signaling lane changes, failing to brake in time, drifting across lane lines, and following too closely. All of these, and other fatigue-induced driver errors, can lead to accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities.
Drowsy Driving is a Serious Problem
According to the federal government, it can be difficult to put a number on drowsy-driving accidents. Evidence at the scene to be hard to obtain or prove to not be definitive. Instead, federal agencies have to rely upon reporting by local police and hospitals to estimate how many traffic accidents are related to drowsy driving. One federal agency recently estimated there were more than 72,000 accidents involving drowsy drivers, with about 41,000 people hurt and more than 800 people killed in those accidents. That’s more than 2.5 percent of all traffic fatalities.
As if that weren’t a serious enough problem, many non-government sources, including private organizations that focus on traffic safety, sleep-science experts and public health officials, estimate that the government’s numbers are far too low. These experts peg the cost of drowsy driving at more than 16 percent of all fatal traffic accidents—amounting to about 6,000 people killed each year.
Other studies indicate fatigue could be a contributing factor in 30 to 40 percent of heavy truck crashes. The same study found that two-thirds of over-the-road drivers of 18-wheelers—long-haul truckers—reported feeling fatigue to some extent on about half of their hauls, while 65 percent acknowledged that they experienced symptoms of drowsiness while on long hauls. These symptoms included yawning, feeling sleepy, or having difficulty staying alert while driving. An alarming 13 percent of drivers reported that they had actually fallen asleep while driving, even if very briefly.
Additional studies indicate that truck drivers on overnight or early morning hauls are more likely to be driving drowsy even if they are got proper rest. Driving or working late at night or for long or irregular hours disrupts natural sleep patterns. Truck drivers often have to do exactly that, and even if they have had proper sleep, those conditions can contribute to the body wanting to go to sleep much more so than during daylight hours. Also, driving during darkness under monotonous driving conditions—often the quintessential description of long-haul trucking—has been found to contribute to drowsy driving.
While most drowsy-driving accidents occur late at night or early in the morning, a large number also happen in the mid-afternoon. Natural sleep rhythms indicate that people will be the sleepiest at the mid-point of their night-time sleeps, and then again about 12 hours later. For most people, this second period of sleepiness is between 2 and 6 p.m.
Negligent Truckers are a Real Problem for Laredo
Given the high number of truckers passing through Laredo who are on long, international hauls, it goes without saying that sleep deprivation among truckers is a major problem for the area. Sleep deprivation, leading to drowsy driving, has the potential to be a significant factor in Laredo traffic accidents involving trucks. Thousands of trucks every year cross the border at Laredo, from north and south. Many of those truckers have driven many hundreds of miles, perhaps even thousands. Even if they obey federal regulations, they can have been behind the wheel for double-digit hours per day. To contend that none of them are drowsy defies logic.
Drowsy driving interferes dramatically with a driver’s ability to safely navigate the roads. Reaction time is down, attention to road circumstances is impaired, vigilance is likewise reduced, and the effects of drowsiness can increase distractibility and confusion, decrease motivation, and increase the likelihood of driving errors.
The leading indicators of drowsy driving highlight how dangerous the condition can be. According to one driving association, leading indicators that you are at risk of driving drowsy include:
- Not remembering recent miles you have driven
- Not being able to concentrate on what you are doing
- Having difficulty focusing your attention on your tasks or even keeping your eyes open
- Feeling like your head is heavy, and having your head droop involuntarily
- Drifting across traffic lanes;
- Repeated and constant yawning
- Tailgating other vehicles without realizing you are doing so at first
- Not noticing traffic signs, including stop signs and yield signs
Some studies indicate that driving drowsy is just as bad as driving drunk. Research indicates that drowsy driving strongly mimics the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, drowsy drivers sometimes drive so poorly that they might appear to be drunk. One study surveyed police officers and found that:
- 88 percent of surveyed officers had stopped a driver they believed to be under the influence of alcohol but was simply drowsy;
- 89 percent of the officers surveyed thought that drowsy driving is at least as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol;
- 97 percent of the officers surveyed said drowsy driving is a major problem among commercial truck drivers.
Obviously, no one wants truckers to be suffering from these symptoms. There is no real defense against the mindless swerve of a drowsy driver; you simply have to hope the truck never hits you. With drowsy truck drivers, the danger of a truck hitting a passenger vehicle that it outweighs by thousands of pounds obviously goes much higher. That increase in risk inevitably increases your risk of being hit by a truck. No one wants to suffer that fate, but it happens. If it happens to you, you should look into contacting a law firm that has experience with accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs, particularly when you believe the driver may have been driving drowsy.
What Are the Leading Causes of Drowsy Driving?
Clearly, drowsy driving is a significant problem. But why is there such an epidemic of drowsy driving? And how could it be affecting truck drivers, who are closely regulated with respect to how many hours they spend on the road each day? The federal government has identified that a number of factors constitute the primary causes of drowsy driving. These include:
- Loss of sleep. While this seems obvious, it is not as simple as it sounds, and many truck drivers who are within regulatory limits on how much they can drive each day don’t think much about how and when they sleep. This plays into other primary causes of drowsy driving.
- It matters when and how far you’re driving. If a driver is on the road between midnight and 6 a.m., driving a lot of miles, driving a significant number of hours each day, or driving for long periods without a break—virtually the definition of the job of a long-haul trucker—these are major causes of drowsy driving;
- Using sedatives, such as painkillers, some antidepressants, and some cold medications likewise can lead to drowsy driving.
- Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy, can reduce the effectiveness of sleep even when truckers obey regulations regarding how much they can drive each day. If they aren’t sleeping well because of a medical condition, then they are susceptible to driving drowsy even when they are technically getting enough sleep.
Each of these causes of drowsy driving can have cumulative effects. A combination of two or more of these factors can dramatically raise the risk of a drowsy driving accident.
If You Suffered a Truck Accident Injury in the Laredo Area, the Legal Team at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, Can Help
A traffic accident is never a good thing, especially when it produces injuries. If you were in a traffic accident in the Laredo area, especially one involving a commercial truck such as a tractor-trailer rig, contact a Laredo personal injury law firm with experience to explore your options ASAP. You have rights, including compensation, if you suffered injuries in such an accident.
Contact the team of legal professionals at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law for your free case evaluation. Because we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a DIME unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or contact us now by CLICKING HERE.
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