Truck Driver Fatigue Causes Harmful Crash on HWY 50.

Christine Dupont was driving her 2008 Kia along the U.S. Highway 50 with her 6 year old son Blake in the backseat. Traffic was slowing because of congestion they had to come to a complete stop along the highway. While waiting at a full stop, a driver fast approaching suffering from truck driver fatigue crashed into the back of Christine’s vehicle.

The driver of the truck had fallen into a “micro-sleep” (a tell tale sign of truck driver fatigue) and had not noticed the stop in the flow of traffic. Witnesses said the truck continued travelling somewhere between 60-65mph despite the other traffic slowing down.

The large commercial vehicle rear-ended Christine’s car at full speed and caused it to burst into flames. Christine had to be pulled from her burning vehicle after losing consciousness. The serious collision caused the backseat as well as the trunk to push up into the front seat, pinning both of Blake’s legs.

The vehicle continued to burn quickly as fire fighters arrived and struggled to remove the boy from the vehicle. They were able to free Blake just in time with a shattered leg. Both suffered from smoke inhalation and many injuries caused by dangerous truck driver fatigue.

A lawsuit was filed against the driver and the trucking company responsible for the damages. It was determined the driver was suffering from extreme truck driver fatigue, something plaguing a startling 41% of drivers. Almost 4000 fatalities happen each year in large commercial vehicle crashes due to truck driver fatigue.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is trying to decrease these instances in their mission plan to improve highway safety by regulating the number of hours drivers operate to ensure they are not suffering from truck driver fatigue.

The new rules issued by the FMCSA in December of 2011 altered the allowances for “hours of service” for drivers. The aim was to reduce the maximum average per week that a driver could work from 82 to 70 hours.

Two new requirements were made that a rest period of 34 hours known as a “restart” would be used, as well as insisting drivers take a 30 minute min. break within the first 8 hours of their shift in order to stay alert behind the wheel. The new rules require that every driver use the restart once every seven days and requires them to use a minimum of two rest periods between 1am and 5am to help prevent truck driver fatigue.

Research continues in the study of the effects that long work hours without sufficient recovery time in between have on the safety of our roads. This leads to a general reduction in sleep causing chronic truck driver fatigue. Such cases of fatigue cause slower reaction times in drivers and reduce their ability to quickly assess situations.

One of the most dangerous factors with truck driver fatigue is how quickly it can arise, unbeknownst to the vehicle operators. The drivers aren’t able to properly assess their levels of truck driver fatigue. It is often too late before drivers are aware that their performance has been compromised. New measures continue to be taken to avoid the tragic accidents like the one above from ever happening again.