Fatigued Semi Drivers and Semi Truck Accidents in Alabama

semi truck accidents in alabamaEven though we become numbed to the statistics of over 30,000 deaths a year on American roads, we all know that there is a certain risk to driving on highways at high speeds. Accidents do happen. However, when a passenger vehicle is involved in a collision with a semi truck, very bad things often happen. There were 3,455 semi truck accidents in Alabama last year and 148 of them involved fatalities. It is worth looking at just some of the statistics that show why we are rightfully intimidated by commercial semi-trucks speeding by us on the highway.

The laws of physics dictate that a large truck creates significant damage to a smaller auto in an accident. And this is not a hypothetical – a person is killed or injured in accidents involving 18-whelers and tractor-trailers every 16 minutes in the U.S. In 2001, 429,000 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes (both fatal and minor) in the United States with 5,082 fatalities. In fact, the 2010 statistics show an 8.7 percent increase in total number of people killed in such crashes. The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes has increased by up to 10% from 1992 to 2002. The causes attributed to these accidents include:

  • Driver fatigue
  • Unsafe vehicle operation
  • Large, unstable loads
  • Defective equipment (such as tires, brakes, engines and steering wheels)

Statistics also show that semi-trucks are involved in multi-vehicle accidents far more often than passenger vehicles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in crashes between large trucks and other vehicles, 98% of the fatalities occur to the people in passenger vehicles.

Sorting out the Causes of Semi Truck Accidents in Alabama and Nationally

The U.S. Department of Transportation and National Transportation Safety Board spend millions of dollars evaluating truck accidents. Likewise, the trucking industry has a large financial interest in these accidents and investigations. The trucking industry reported revenues in excess of $610 billion in 2011 and these revenues are projected to be more than $1.1 trillion by 2015. These firms have the resources to protect their interests when it comes to truck accidents.

While these reports identify a number of collective factors in truck accidents, driver fatigue is one of the most alarming and preventable causes. In fact, as early as 15 years ago the NTSB stated that “trucker fatigue was a contributing factor in 301 to 40 percent of all diesel truck accidents.” Driver fatigue has a major role in making chances of semi truck accidents in Alabama. Fatigue affects the mind’s ability to readily notice dangers such as stopped vehicles, obstacles or bends in the road, and other safety factors. It also slows the response time to those dangers. What would be an easy maneuver to avoid a problem when fully alert is more challenging when the truck driver is suffering from fatigue. These findings and ongoing concerns were the major reason for publication of the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule in 2011. This regulation has as its specific purpose fighting the problem of driver fatigue. There are very specific guidelines in this rule, including:

  • Drivers may drive up to 11 hours instead of 10 hours, but are limited to 14 hours in a duty period
  • The 14-hour duty period may not be extended with off-duty time for meal and fuel stops, etc. Only the use of a sleeper berth can extend the 14-hour on-duty period
  • Each duty period must begin with at least ten hours off-duty, rather than eight.

There are other details but the point is that drivers must keep detailed records of their drive and rest times and take the time off mandated. The real problem is that many drivers don’t follow these guidelines and sometimes even falsify records to get by with the violations. Additionally, many companies are aware of this and choose to ignore the implication and dangers of fatigued drivers on the road and the impact of semi truck accidents in Alabama. Unfortunately, the economic incentives often outweigh the safety issues.

When a Truck Accident Occurs

If you or a loved one is involved in one of the semi truck accidents in Alabama, it is important that you act quickly to protect your rights. Any such accident requires a detailed investigation of everything from the weather conditions, driver logs, mechanical condition of the truck, maintenance records, and many other factors. The large trucking companies have legal counsel and adjusters available 24/7 to make sure they are able to present the accident from their point of view. Your legal right to recover financial damages can be increased by detailed and aggressive representation by a qualified personal injury attorney. A call to the Attorney Group for Alabama is a step that will help you understand your situation and will help you protect your legal rights. So if you want your questions answered and need help deciding on whether to make a claim, contact Attorney Group for Alabama today.