Driver error is the number one cause of trucking accidents in the United States. According to one study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, roughly 87 percent of all large truck accidents are caused because the driver made some type of error.
Types of errors in that study included:
- Non-performance: Where the driver should have done something, but he or she did not due to falling asleep, having a heart attack or seizure, or other physical impairment
- Recognition: Where the driver should have recognized a problem or danger but he or she did not, usually due to inattention or distraction
- Decision: Where the driver made a poor decision, such as driving too fast or recklessly
- Performance: Where the driver did not perform as required; overcompensated or had poor directional control of the vehicle
The other major causes of accidents in that study included those caused by the vehicle itself, such as product defects, (10%) or the surrounding environment, such as weather or road conditions generally (3%).
The same study reported that of those trucks that crashed due to driver error,
- 44 percent involved drivers who were taking prescription or over-the-counter medications
- 23 percent involved drivers that were driving much too fast for the current road conditions and
- 18 percent were caused by driver fatigue
Drug Use and Driver Error
Truck drivers are not permitted to use any controlled substance while driving, but there is an exception for prescription drugs. These drugs must be prescribed by a physician who knows that the driver must drive for a living. The driver is only allowed to use them if the doctor states that the prescription drugs will not affect the driver’s ability to drive.
Federal regulations require trucking companies to test their drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment. They also require that random tests be performed while the drivers are on duty and after any accident that involves a death.
There are also federal regulations about driving while tired. Fatigue is a serious problem for truck drivers who may feel pressure to drive while they are tired due to work requirements. Drowsy driving can lead to many driver errors including:
- Falling asleep
- Misjudging distances or speeds
- Ignoring road signs and traffic signals
- Inattention or distraction
- Overcorrecting in dangerous situations
Federal law limits truck drivers’ working hours to 14 hours per day. During that time, drivers are further limited. They can only drive for 11 hours per day. Regardless of how long they drove in the previous shift, drivers must be off-duty for ten consecutive hours before beginning another shift.
There are also weekly restrictions. A driver cannot drive after 60 hours of working in a seven-day period. Seventy hours in an eight-day period is also not permitted.
Truck Driving Liability
Trucking companies need to schedule their drivers around these federal restrictions. State restrictions often apply as well. Failing to do so can result in fines and other legal problems.
If the driver is in an accident while violating one or more of these restrictions, then that could be grounds for “negligence per se.” That is, the law presumes that the driver was being unsafe (or negligent) simply because they were violating a law.
In other situations where the driver is not violating a law, he or she could still be liable because of their driver error. If the victim can show that the driver was operating their vehicle in a careless or reckless manner, then the driver (and usually the trucking company) will likely be liable.
Get Legal Help with Fetterman
Proving driver error can be difficult in some situations. Truck drivers must usually keep a log of their deliveries, hours, and other vital information. This log can be very helpful in determining whether the driver was engaged in illegal activity such as working too much.
Fetterman & Associates, PA are experienced Jupiter trucking accident lawyer. We can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your trucking accident case. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that involves a truck, get knowledgeable assistance from the attorneys at Fetterman & Associates, PA. Use the chat feature below to get started.