As a Maryland Trucking Accident lawyer, I know the unfortunate correlation between sleep deprivation and driver negligence, especially as it pertains to professional truck drivers and the sometimes careless operation of 18-wheeled tractor-trailer rigs. While not every over-the-road trucker pushes the limits of physical stamina, a percentage of semi drivers have been known to put in too many hours behind the wheel without sufficient sleep.
The results of sleep-related trucking wrecks can be serious, as news reports often depict. According to a recent article, a tractor-trailer accident caused apparently by an over-tired driver blocked a portion of Interstate 81 near Hagerstown, MD on a Monday afternoon last month. The accident occurred south of Showalter Road where Maryland State Police say the truck driver fell asleep, causing the rig with its 48,000-pound load of paper rolls to drift off the northbound lanes of the interstate, ending up on its side.
This is not an uncommon happening here in Maryland and across the rest of the country. A poll conducted last year by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that nearly 1.9 million drivers are involved in drowsy driving traffic accidents or near misses each and every year. Sadly, most drivers ignore the dangers that sleepiness can present when it comes to trucking and automobile accidents.
The NSF says that while drivers may quite good at recognizing when they are tired, this doesn’t always stop them from taking the wheel of a car or truck and hitting the road in a drowsy condition. Unfortunately, drivers many times can mistakenly believe that they can “will” themselves from falling asleep, which doesn’t necessarily work. And because a single moment of “reduced awareness” can cause a trucking accident, this kind of thinking can be very deadly.
In the case of the recent I-81 crash, the 76-year-old driver, Augustine Christian had reportedly been driving since 5am, according to state police on the scene. The driver’s tractor-trailer rig drove off the interstate just before 5pm and overturned on the right shoulder, state police said. Witnesses at the scene told police that tractor-trailer continued straight instead of following a curve in that stretch of roadway.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the accident, which closed one of the northbound lanes for several hours as workers cleared the truck and trailer from the area. The trucker, who was charged with negligent driving, was taken to Washington County Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Tractor-trailer accident blocks portion of I-81, Herald-Mail.com, May 17. 2010