Articles Posted in Drowsy Driving Truck Accidents

Maryland auto accidents can often vary in severity and type—and there are certainly some accidents that are more dangerous than others. Accidents involving trucks, for example, can often be more dangerous than accidents involving two passenger vehicles, depending on how the accident took place. Understanding the additional risks trucks pose for drivers can be important for both protecting yourself proactively on the road, but also others.

According to a recent news report, three children were transported to a local hospital for treatment after a major crash involving a dump truck and an SUV. Police and investigators reported that the dump truck driver was headed south when it dropped off the right side of the highway. When the driver made it back onto the highway, it crossed the center line and crashed into an SUV heading in the opposite direction. The dump truck then overturned onto the driver’s side, with the vehicle blocking the roadway. The driver of the dump truck and three children who were in the SUV were taken to the hospital, and the accident remains under investigation.

Truck accidents like the one described above can often be more devastating and dangerous than crashes involving passenger vehicles only. But what is it exactly that makes accidents associated with trucks more dangerous than other types of collisions?

To be sure, truck drivers have difficult jobs. Typically, they drive for long hours at a time, many days in a row. Because of this, they may get distracted, restless, fatigued, or careless while driving, causing them to make mistakes and potentially cause an accident. Because of the sheer size of most trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are some of the most dangerous to Maryland drivers. When driving near a truck, it is impossible to know if the truck driver is exhausted, paying attention, or how many hours they have been driving without resting. Because of this, drivers are always encouraged to be on high alert and as careful as possible when driving, especially near trucks, to try and minimize the risk of a Maryland truck accident.

The federal government has also taken steps to decrease the number of truck accidents across the nation. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has promulgated regulations that limit how many hours truck drivers can drive each day. Property-carrying drivers (those carrying goods and materials, as opposed to passenger-carrying drivers) can only drive 11 hours within a 14-hour period. This 14-hour period must only start after the driver has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. It is important to note that the 11 hours cannot be consecutive: drivers cannot drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Additionally, the regulations place a limit in how many hours a driver can work each week—if a driver has been “on-duty” for over 70 hours in the past 8 days, or 60 hours in the past 7 days, they cannot drive any more until that is no longer the case. A driver can “reset” the 7- or 8-day period by taking 34 or more hours off.

These regulations are put in place for drivers’ safety, and to minimize the occurrence of truck accidents across the United States. However, truck accidents do still occur, and when they do, people may be injured or even killed. Maryland state law allows those injured in these instances to file a civil negligence suit against the driver—if they were being careless or made a mistake that led to the crash, they can be held liable and ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the resulting harm. Importantly, if a driver was violating the hour of service regulations described above, a plaintiff’s case against them may be more straight-forward, since the defendant was clearly violating federal regulations.

Maryland truck drivers are required to safely operate their rigs at all times. However, truck drivers are human and will frequently make mistakes or errors in judgment. One of the more common mistakes we see truck drivers make is driving while too tired. Drowsy driving is most likely to result in rear-end accidents.

According to the Center for Disease Control, drowsy driving accounts for 6,000 fatal accidents each year. The actual figure is believed to be higher due to drowsy drivers failing to disclose the actual cause of the accident, blaming it on some other factor. Regardless, drowsy driving is a significant safety concern, especially among truck drivers, who are often compensated based on each mile traveled. Maryland truck drivers are financially incentivized to drive as many hours per day so that they can more quickly reach their destination, get home, and begin another trip.

State and federal regulations require that truck drivers obtain a certain amount of rest each day, and take breaks in between long trips. For example, truck drivers can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and must take a 30-minute break such that the driver is not continuously driving form more than eight hours. Additionally, truck drivers must complete “rest logs” in which the driver documents his travel and rest hours.

There are many populous cities in and around the Maryland region, and traffic can be brutal and congested. The busy metropolitan cities are home to many businesses that rely on transportation companies to deliver their goods. With the rise in online purchasing and same-day delivery, transportation companies are now beginning to face potential competition among them. This new competition-driven system has resulted in an influx of trucking accidents in the state.

There are many reasons that trucking accidents occur in Maryland. Some of the top causes of trucking accidents and trucking-related fatalities are truck driver inexperience, trucking malfunction, jackknifing, and truck driver fatigue. Out of all of these common causes, truck driver drowsiness and fatigue is arguably the most dangerous. In fact, a recent study revealed that although medical professionals recommend at least 7-8 hours of sleep for an adult, many truck drivers get less than five hours of sleep. This is clearly insufficient when they are in control of such large and dangerous vehicles.

As mentioned above, competition between trucking companies is so fierce that many times trucking companies demand their drivers to make delivery goals that are potentially unsafe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has lenient standards that allow drivers to drive up to 11 hours in one day without stops. This number translates to almost 70 hours in just over a week’s time. In order to ensure job security, truck drivers may feel compelled to violate these requirements. In some cases, truck drivers may even take illicit substances to ensure that they are awake. However, many of these substances lead to drivers who are less alert and aware of their surroundings. The combination of strict delivery times and fatigued drivers can only lead to a deadly result.

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