The average passenger automobile weighs roughly 5,000 pounds, while the average weight of a semi-truck weighs as much as 80,000 pounds or more. These beasts that roam the highway are unfortunately not something you can avoid as a regular vehicle driver. Unfortunately, accidents involving semi-trucks and passenger vehicles are a common occurrence. 

In 2015 alone, 3,852 people were killed in auto accidents involving a large truck. To make matters even more alarming, many of these accidents were the direct cause of a distracted semi-truck driver. Why are semi-truck drivers so prone to being distracted? The reasons are scary to look at, but necessary if you have been involved in an accident with one of these commercial vehicles. 

Fatigued Driving

According to federal law, truck drivers are allowed to log 77 hours of driving time per week, or 11 hours per day. Those 11 hours per day can be in a single stretch or divided, but many truck drivers admit to driving far more hours than they are technically allowed just to meet deadlines and make more money while on the road.

These long hours of driving time can lead to fatigue and loss of focus on the highway, which could easily lead to a collision.

To further add to the problem, because truck drivers must be awake at specific times in order to pick up or drop off a load, it is not unusual for their sleep schedules to be erratic. The inconsistency of their sleep schedules means that even when they do get sleep, the quality of their sleep can often be sub-par, leading to further fatigue and drowsiness while driving. 

Driving While Intoxicated

The idea that truck drivers are distracted is scary when you have to travel alongside them, but the idea that they could also be under the influence of drugs or alcohol makes the situation even more terrifying. Sadly, studies have proven that drug and alcohol use among truck drivers is an ongoing industry problem. 

One particularly alarming study showed that half of all truck drivers asked admitted to driving while intoxicated by alcohol, and 30 percent used amphetamines, which are commonly used to help people stay awake. These numbers came only from those who admitted to their actions, so in reality, the true numbers could be much higher. 

Truck Drivers With Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to intermittently stop breathing in their sleep. People who suffer from this condition do not get the good quality sleep they need to feel rested during the day, and often times take naps or fall asleep unexpectedly because of it. It is estimated that 30 percent of truck drivers have sleep apnea. 

Why is sleep apnea so prevalent among truckers? It seems to be related to several factors, including:

  • Many truck drivers are overweight
  • Some truck drivers have health conditions that contribute to the presence of sleep apnea
  • Truck drivers do not get a lot of exercise in general
  • A lot of truck drivers are heavy smokers

Unfortunately, sleep apnea tends to go undiagnosed for many people because they do not realize there's a problem, and the same holds true for semi-truck drivers.  

Understanding the real risks of sharing the highway with semi-trucks can help you be more alert to signs of distracted driving. If you spot a distracted driver or a truck driving erratically, make sure to contact the local authorities for help. If you have been injured in an auto accident involving a semi-truck, reach out to the truck accident attorneys at the law office of D. Chadwick Calvert, LLC, for help.