Imagine this: you’re driving down the highway on your everyday commute. Traffic is heavy but no worse than usual. You’re driving next to a semi-truck, trying to pass when suddenly the truck starts weaving. The truck slams into the side of your car before you can brake then veers off the road. The cars behind you rear-end you before you can get to the curb yourself.
Once the police get to the scene of the accident, it’s discovered that the truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. You suffer from severe whiplash, a destroyed car, and only barely avoided more fatal consequences. You’ll deal with these consequences for months or years to come.
That scenario and ones like it happen every day on California highways. Truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel, get distracted because they’re tired, or simply can’t pay proper attention because they’re on stimulants. The other people on the road with them suffer because of their actions. Still, those truckers don’t act in a vacuum. Keep reading to learn why truck accidents are so common, how they put you at risk, and how to stay safe on the road anyway.
Does the Shipping Industry Put Speed Over Safety?
There are dozens of laws and regulations in place that are intended to keep truck drivers and other people on the road safe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets rules regarding how long truck drivers may drive, how long they’re required to rest, and how fast they can drive. However, these laws don’t spring up out of nowhere. If there’s a law intended to keep people safe, it’s a good bet that it was written because someone was pushing for unsafe practices.
For example, before the FMCSA put hours-of-service regulations into place, truck companies could and would push drivers to deliver faster and take fewer breaks. Today, property-carrying drivers are protected by rules like:
- 11-hour driving limits: Drivers can only drive for 11 hours total before taking a 10-hour break.
- 14-hour driving limits: Drivers can only drive during the 14 consecutive hours following a 10-hour break, then take another 10-hour break.
- 30-minute breaks: A driver must take at least one 30-minute break for every eight cumulative hours they drive.
- 60/70-hour driving limits: Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day period, or 70 hours in an eight-day period, then they must take at least 34 consecutive hours off.
All of these rules are intended to let truckers get the rest they need to remain safe on the road. Still, even with these rules, trucking companies continue to push drivers to do more in less time. While companies are required to give their drivers this time off, they can still require drivers to meet impossible time limits or delivery windows.
The truck driver must be the one to either push back against the company and make it clear the delivery is impossible while following the laws. They may even face bosses who request they ignore restrictions to get things delivered more quickly.
It makes sense that companies try to skirt these laws. Speed is paramount in today’s delivery industry. Amazon’s two-day delivery policy has put pressure on every delivery company to shorten time frames and cut corners. Unfortunately, that’s bad for everyone else.
The Unsafe Response to Industry Pressure
Drivers face pressure every day to rest less, ignore their bodily needs, and get things delivered as quickly as possible. Of course, not every delivery company puts this pressure on workers, and some drivers push back against it. Still, many drivers don’t bother pushing back. If they risk losing their job for taking enough rest breaks, or if they get bonuses for faster deliveries by cutting corners, of course, they’ll ignore these safety laws.
It’s all too common for drivers to do things like ignore mandatory rest breaks or perform other duties during their rest time. These people will often make up for their lack of sleep by using caffeine and other, less legal stimulants to stay awake. While these actions are illegal and unsafe, they still happen.
Why You’re at Risk from Semis
So, how does this affect you? Simple. Drowsy driving is comparable to driving while intoxicated in terms of danger. Annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 37,000 accidents that cause injuries and anywhere between 846 and 6000 fatal car crashes. Furthermore, accidents have been going up in California over the past decade.
While trucks are included in these statistics, it’s safe to assume that a drowsy trucker is more dangerous than a drowsy driver of a two-door sedan. Trucks are taller, longer, and heavier than other vehicles. They have significant blind spots on all four sides, and they’re more heavily affected by wind and bad weather. Trucks are more likely to face situations where they’re hard to control, and mistakes are much more dangerous.
A single out-of-control truck can easily hit multiple cars before it stops. Furthermore, the cars it hits will be much more damaged than if they were hit by a smaller vehicle. Essentially, truck drivers are the worst possible people to be driving at anything other than full mental capacity, and they’re putting you at risk when they do.
Stay Safe on the Road
You can’t control how truck drivers behave. You can’t guarantee that they’re well-rested and paying attention. What you can do is take precautions when you’re driving. Always give semi-trucks a wide berth when you’re driving nearby. If you can’t see their mirrors, they can’t see you. If a truck starts driving erratically, assume that the trucker is already asleep at the wheel and get out of the way as safely as possible.
If you’ve already been in a truck accident, it’s not your fault. You’re a victim of an industry that puts speed over safety. You deserve to get your life back. Reach out to the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. to discuss your case. Start pushing back against dangerous truck drivers and fight for the compensation you need to return to your normal life today.