All it takes is one truck driver nodding off

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Just this week, a semi-truck had been driving south on Interstate 35 near San Marcos when it crossed the median and traveled down the embankment. The truck crashed into the concrete supports of the Blanco River bridge. Fortunately, no one was killed in the crash.

However, a victim of a similar incident was not so lucky. In May of 2017, a commercial 18-wheeler struck the back of a teenager’s car on Interstate 35 near Round Rock, Texas. The driver told police he had fallen asleep. The victim now rides in a wheelchair.

Truck driver fatigue is a clear and present danger

In related circumstances, actor Tracy Morgan has finally just returned to work after suffering from a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle was hit by a semi-truck that never slowed down in a construction zone -- despite posted signs indicating lower speed limits -- and piled into Morgan’s vehicle. The crash involved 21 people and six vehicles.

The semi-truck driver that caused the accident and Morgan’s subsequent TBI had been awake for 28 hours at the time of the crash and is believed to have dozed off. It’s been estimated that up to 20 percent of all large truck accidents are due to drowsy or fatigued driving.

Learn to recognize the signs

With 6,400 deaths and 50,000 injuries every year in the U.S., drowsy driving is serious problem. How do you know if someone is too tired to drive? Look for any of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty focusing or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming or wandering thoughts
  • Missing exits or traffic control signs or lights
  • Frequent yawning or rubbing of the eyes
  • Difficulty keeping their head up and eyes on the road
  • Drifting between lanes or hitting shoulder rumble strips

Similar to drunk driving

If you think those symptoms resemble a drunk drivers’ performance behind the wheel, you are correct. The National Safety Council says that driving while drowsy is similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Driving on 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to driving with a blood-alcohol concentration at the U.S. legal limit, .08.

Sleep apnea a factor

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health that looked at a trucking company’s obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) program suggests that commercial truck drivers should be screened for OSA and treatment required if needed. OSA is a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. The study found that truck drivers with sleep apnea who failed to adhere to treatment had a rate of preventable crashes five times higher than that of truckers without the ailment.

If you or a loved one were victims of an 18-wheeler accident, life can turn catastrophic in the blink of an eye — or with the nod of a driver’s head. An experienced accident attorney can investigate the accident to accurately determine liability. Your attorney can help recover financial compensation for your lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages.

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