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Despite dangers of fatigue, truck drivers defy rest laws

There are more than 30,000 people who die every year because of motor vehicle accidents on highways. About one in every seven of these deaths occurred during an accident that involved a large truck. When you consider that a decade-plus trend of declining motor vehicle accidents in the 90s and early 2000s has leveled off — and now, motor vehicle accidents are increasing, especially ones involving trucks — and the recent headline-grabbing wreck with Tracy Morgan, the safety of large trucks has come into question.

The most noticeable area of truck safety that has come into question is sleepy drivers. Many truck drivers work long hours. New rules limited their work weeks from an 82-hour maximum to a 70-hour maximum. There were added rules that designate how much “rest” the drivers have to get before they can return to work. However, that hasn’t prevented many truck drivers from going out on the road without the sleep they need to drive safely.

It’s inherent to the industry. The more miles they drive, the more money they can make — both drivers and trucking companies. There’s a natural incentive for drivers to push the boundaries of their sleep schedule, just as there’s a natural incentive for truck companies to help the drivers hide or obscure their rest hours.

But this doesn’t mean they should get away with it, nor does it mean that truck accidents involving sleepy drivers need to keep happening. When someone is seriously or fatally injured because of a sleepy truck driver, the truck driver — and maybe even the truck company — can be held liable for those injuries and their negligence.

Source: New York Times, “Truckers Resist Rules on Sleep, Despite Risks of Drowsy Driving,” Jad Mouawad and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 16, 2014

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