Vehicular accidents happen all the time, and most of us have been near vehicles that are driving erratically at some point in time. When that vehicle is a large tractor-trailer, however, any worries we might feel about the situation are increased exponentially. Large truck accidents can be extremely destructive, both in terms of property damage and injuries or death. So, what do you do when you’re driving along and you notice a truck driver swerving in and out of his lane or nodding off in his cab? How can you help prevent a truck accident if you suspect that trucker might be too tired to drive? Is there anything you can do to remedy the situation?
How Bad Could It Be?
Many people have an image in their minds of a truck driver lifestyle that involves sleepless nights as drivers traverse the country with the nation’s goods and services. Decades ago, it was common for drivers to drive without breaks for extended periods of time, racing to make deadlines or squeeze as much money out of every trip as possible. In recent years, however, lawmakers have taken action to limit driving times as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce driver fatigue and improve public safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a few years ago that there were more than 300,000 large truck accidents in 2012. Those crashes contributed to more than 100,000 injuries and nearly 4,000 deaths – with three out of every four of those deaths being suffered by people in other cars involved in the accidents. That rash of accidents, injuries and deaths was part of a longstanding trend that prompted legislative and regulatory action to increase safety.
The problem society faces, however, is that it can be difficult to properly assess fatigue as a contributing factor in any accident. As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has noted, government studies on the topic are not conclusive since the only way to gauge fatigue in the aftermath of an accident is to ask the driver – and many truck drivers are reluctant to admit to driving while fatigued.
How Have Officials Reacted to the Crisis?
New rules went into effect back in 2013, limiting truck drivers’ work weeks to no more than seventy hours in any seven-day period. Those rules only impacted about 15% of all drivers, however. That rulemaking was nothing new since the government has been attempting to create safe driving standards for truckers since the first Hours of Service rules were enforced by the now-defunct Interstate Commerce Commissions back in 1938. Those rules limited driving to 12 hours of any work during each 15-hour period, and no more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours over any 8-day period.
Over the course of the following decades, lawmakers and regulators have worked together to adjust those rules. This year has been no different, as adjustments to hours were once again considered – along with new training requirements designed to ensure that only the best drivers are on the road. There have even been new laws put into effect to change the way that drivers log their hours – using electronic devices that are expected to prevent dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries each year. Many of these changes have been welcomed by the carrier industry. Some have been criticized for their cost. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that the proposed training requirements would cost $5.6 billion over the course of the next decade.
The Problem Needs Solutions
Though the solutions that have thus far been proposed or enacted are costly, it is reasonable to argue that the cost is worth the lives saved. After all, there are few things more frightening than being in a vehicle on the open highway, and suddenly coming into close proximity with a large truck operated by a fatigued driver. And that, of course, brings us back to our initial question: is there anything you can do to help prevent that driver from causing an accident?
As it turns out, there are some specific things you can do to help:
Do not honk your horn, or try to get the driver’s attention by moving in close to the truck. If that driver is nodding off and is alarmed by the sudden noise, he or she could react recklessly, putting you in danger.
Without endangering yourself or your passengers, get close enough to locate identifying information on the side or back of the truck. Some companies have phone numbers and other details on the exterior of the trailer, while others have company details on the side of the cab. Get the license plate number, company name, phone number if available, and other details.
Take notice of any visible mile markers, exit signs, or other location details so that you can identify the location of the driver.
Remove yourself from danger. Once you have your identifying information, put some distance between yourself and the truck. The last thing you need to do is put yourself in harm’s way.
Call the police or state troopers in your area. Provide them with your approximate location, and the descriptive identifying information you gathered about the truck. With that information, the authorities can develop a plan to deal with the situation.
The good news is that drivers in Texas can band together to watch out for one another on the road. Truck drivers have grueling jobs with stringent time constraints and tight margins and schedules that they are working to meet. Many push themselves beyond their limits to get the goods and services that we need delivered to our areas. That dedication, however, can place lives at risk when rest is ignored to meet deadlines. You can help to prevent that by remaining alert and taking sensible action when you see potential trouble. Of course, if you or a loved one are involved in an accident that results in damages, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Texas personal injury attorney to protect your interests.