Articles Posted in Drowsy Driving

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A trial date has been set for the driver who fell asleep at the wheel while operating a commercial truck, which killed a 31-year-old man. John Ray Carpenter is facing charges of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of anywhere between 3 and 15 years in prison. Carpenter did not deny that he “dozed off” or “blacked out” while driving his multi-ton septic tanker shortly before colliding head-on with Johnson, according to authorities.

The criminal complaint also alleges that the trucker voluntarily admitted to authorities that he is aware that he goes through spells periodically where he believes his eyes are open when they really are not. Further investigation discovered that prior to this wreck, the defendant had a long history of traffic collisions but continued to drive trucks commercially for a living. In fact, he was involved in 13 accidents between the years of 2000 and 2015. Additionally, records show that the driver was involved in a traffic collision just one week prior to the incident at issue in this case, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation declared the driver unfit to operate commercial trucks and has restricted him from doing so.

A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the truck driver in connection with this fatal truck accident. The lawsuit alleges that the driver operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and that he should not have been allowed to operate a commercial truck due to a serious medical condition, sleep apnea.

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Federal agencies and regulatory groups are always looking at ways to reduce car and truck accidents and prevent people from being hurt in them. Each year, millions get injured in car and truck accidents throughout Tennessee and across the country. Nearly all of these are caused by some form of negligence, whether it is looking down at a phone instead of focusing on the road, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to properly maintain the car.

A common theme in car accident prevention is that many wrecks can be prevented by the drivers themselves. One particular way is by reducing drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers are those who are sleepy, tired, or fatigued, which leads to slower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Each year, drowsy driving contributes to as many as one million car accidents and 8,000 accident-related deaths.

Researchers have been studying drowsy driving for years. One study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a direct link between lack of sleep and inattentiveness on the road. For example, drivers who had slept less than four hours in the previous 24 hours were 11.5 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who had slept move than seven hours in the same timeframe. Alarmingly, the study found that sleeping only 4-5 hours can produce the same effects as a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that is equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol. A separate study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that one in three drivers admitted to driving while drowsy.

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A cup of coffee in the morning helps many Americans fight off fatigue after a restless night. But if you’re one of the nearly 18 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, it will take more than some caffeine to remedy your ailment.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that affects an individual’s breathing during sleep. The disorder causes people to stop breathing for extended periods of time and results in the sufferer awakening throughout the night to catch their breath. Needless to say, those suffering from sleep apnea fail to reap the benefits of a full night’s rest and are often severely fatigued throughout the next day.

Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that can be deadly if left untreated. Not only is it dangerous to the individual, but also to the general public. For example, a 2016 New Jersey train crash, which injured over 100 people, was caused by a train operator who likely suffered from sleep apnea, according to reports. Further, the crash was attributed to the operator’s fatigue brought on by chronic sleep apnea. This tragic event took place just three years after another sleep apnea related train crash occurred in New York.

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In the United States, truck drivers are required to maintain a logbook tracking their hours while on the road. These logbooks are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In these logbooks, drivers are required to catalog their hours on and off the road. The purpose is to ensure that truck drivers are getting enough rest and are not driving for extended periods of time, which may result in drowsy driving. However, many drivers falsify logbook entries, either at the request of a trucking company or for their own personal gain. This leads to fatigued drivers operating heavy machinery at high speeds. Bottom line: logbook falsifications can have deadly results.

A typical commercial trucking logbook has space to document off duty, sleep, driving, and on duty hours. These lines correspond with a 24 hour schedule. A completed logbook would ideally show a driver’s schedule, from the minute they pick up their cargo to their time off duty. Ideally, all hours in a day would be accounted for. These entries are signed by each driver, and drivers are trusted with filling these out truthfully. Not surprisingly then, falsifying a log is not looked upon highly by judges and juries when the truck driver’s negligence caused a serious car accident.

Any driver that fails to complete the record of duties performed or makes false reports on a log can be subject to prosecution. Despite this punishment, many drivers continue to falsify logbook entries. Often, drivers claim that they were “forced” by their trucking company to falsify entries. Trucking companies may put unattainable deadlines on deliveries, and as a result, many drivers feel that they must falsify information or risk being fired. This excuse does not always hold up well, and drivers can still be found liable for false entries, regardless of circumstantial pressure.

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A truck driver who crashed his rig into a state trooper in Pike County, Pennsylvania in January 2017 was sent to jail and was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). According to investigations, this is not the first time the driver and truck have been written up for a series of safety violations. Cecil Lipscomb, the truck driver, was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the accident, according to police. The trucker had also falsified logbooks and had repeatedly driven over the maximum number of hours allowed by federal law without getting proper rest.

Research indicates that fatalities due to trucking accidents increased by 15.5% between 2009 and 2015. A major contributor to this rise in deaths is truck driver fatigue. Studies by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator (FMCSA) found that nearly 65% of truck drivers reported that they felt drowsy while driving, and half of the drivers reported falling asleep at some point while driving. In response to the dangers of truck driver fatigue, the FMCSA has implemented an 11-hour driving limit. The purpose of the time limit is to reduce the amount of time a truck driver is allowed on the road without rest. Truck drivers must periodically log their hours to document compliance with this regulation. According to reports, Lipscomb had driven over 13 consecutive hours at the time of his accident.

Following this accident, investigation into Lipscomb and his truck revealed 21 safety violations over the last 3 years, including brake, steering, and light issues. In most instances, as few as one or two violations can result in suspension or termination. However, proper maintenance is only one factor required for safe trucking – a well-rested driver and proper equipment are also vital.

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The dangers of drunk driving are well known. But could driving drowsy be just as dangerous, or even more dangerous, than driving drunk?

Lack of sleep is bad for your health, as it is known to raise the risk of many significant chronic health conditions. Among these are heart disease, diabetes, urinary complications, colon cancer, and breast cancer. While these are potentially long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep, there’s also a short-term consequence that should not be forgotten: auto and truck accidents. In fact, it’s estimated that lack of sleep plays a role in 21% of all fatal auto accidents.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep 7 to 9 hours per night and that adults over 65 sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Even small declines in the time we sleep can have a drastic impact on our driving abilities. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, missing only 1 to 2 hours of sleep can nearly double a person’s risk of being involved in an auto or truck accident. The risk is even greater for those who sleep for only 4 to 5 hours. For these drivers, their risk of being in an auto accident is more than 4 times that of their well-rested counterparts.

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In Tennessee, drivers must follow state and local driving laws when operating their vehicles within state lines. Drivers of 18-wheelers and commercial trucks must follow these laws in addition to specific rules and safety regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These rules are known as Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”). Since commercial vehicles, tractor trailers and other big rig trucks are much larger in size than the cars that typical Tennesseans drive, trucking accidents are often investigated to determine what caused them and to see if any recommendations can be made to prevent them in the future.

On October 4, 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) met to discuss potential causes of a significant June 2015 trucking accident near Chattanooga, Tennessee that caused six fatalities. This accident, which occurred on an Interstate 75 work zone, involved nine vehicles and 18 people. Around 7:00 p.m., traffic was slowing down when a Cool Runnings Express, Inc. (“Cool Runnings”) tractor trailer rear ended a Toyota Prius. This began the chain reaction with the other seven vehicles. After investigating the crash, the NTSB blamed the Cool Runnings driver for causing the wreck because he failed to slow down in the work zone and instead drove through it at around 80 miles per hour.  According to the NTSB, fatigue and drug use affected the trucker’s conduct that night.

Proving a truck driver’s negligence can be accomplished, in part, by showing that he or she violated one or more federal regulation. Two sections would specifically apply to this accident, Sections 382 (drug use) and 395 (hours of service).  Under Section 382, truck drivers are expressly prohibited from operating their trucks while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and drivers who violate this rule can face civil or criminal penalties. After being involved in an accident, a commercial truck driver must undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing.

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