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Baton Rouge is not just the capital of Louisiana; it is also a pivotal hub for transportation as a node connecting various parts of the country. Nestled on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge plays a central role in Louisiana’s commerce. 

Local industries rely heavily on these steel giants to move goods in and out, making trucking indispensable to Baton Rouge’s economy. But as this trucking industry thrives, driver fatigue has emerged as an alarming concern.

Read further as the Baton Rouge truck accident lawyers at Dudley DeBosier delve into the realities shaping this critical issue, and what it means for victims of fatigue-related truck accidents in Baton Rouge.

Statistics on Truck Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue

According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatigue is a leading factor in large truck accidents. It is not the complex technical failures or unpredictable weather conditions that top the list, but something as simple as tiredness.

According to FMCSA, 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers were fatigued at the time of a crash. What’s more, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study revealed that “fatigue” was cited in 18% of large truck accidents. Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 100,000 police-reported crashes annually are the direct result of driver fatigue.

Common Causes Leading to Truck Driver Fatigue

Arguably, the number one cause of truck driver fatigue is the pressure drivers feel to meet unrealistic schedules. Some trucking companies push their drivers with schedules that are challenging, if not impossible, to meet. This can mean drivers are incentivized to skip breaks or rest periods.

Other likely causes of driver fatigue include:

  • Financial Pressures: The more they drive, the more truck drivers earn. This incentive sometimes leads to decisions that prioritize money over safety.
  • Sleep Disruptions: Truckers are often on the road during irregular hours, which messes with their internal body clock. Not to mention, sleeping in a truck is not as comfortable as sleeping in one’s own bed.
  • Sleep Disorders: Conditions like sleep apnea can disturb a driver’s rest. It is alarming how many truck drivers might be on the road without having had a good night’s sleep due to undiagnosed sleep disorders.
  • Medication and Substance Use: While we would all like to believe that every truck driver out there is following the law, the reality is that some might turn to substances, both legal and illegal, to stay awake or cope with the pressures of the job. These substances might help in the short term but often lead to a crash (literal and figurative) later on.

The Human Cost of Driver Fatigue

While statistics provide a bird’s eye view, real-life stories involving fatigued truck drivers truly hit home. A tragic incident in 2019 claimed two lives, as a fatigued truck driver plowed into a family car on I-10 while traveling through Baton Rouge. The driver had been on the road for over 14 hours.  

In another truck accident on I-10, a fatigued driver overturned his 18-wheeler, causing a massive pile-up and claiming three lives. And in yet another case, local news highlighted a fatigued driver who crashed into a family’s SUV near a popular Baton Rouge shopping center. 

These accidents, and countless others, paint a grim picture of the aftermath of fatigue-related truck accidents, from lifelong injuries to heart-wrenching losses for families. These are not just numbers or headlines; they are stories of families torn apart, underscoring the dire need for change.

Fatigue, in simple terms, is more than just feeling sleepy. It is a severe physical and mental exhaustion that can slow a driver’s reaction times, impair their judgment, and decrease their awareness—making it a dangerous cocktail for those behind the wheel.

Imagine driving drunk without consuming a drop of alcohol. That is how fatigue operates. A fatigued truck driver’s reaction time is delayed, mirroring the effects of a significant blood alcohol concentration.

This impairment turns a normally safe driver into a potential hazard. Studies have even shown that staying awake for 20 hours can render a driver as impaired as having a 0.08% blood alcohol level.

Federal and State Regulations Addressing Truck Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), which are governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, aim to improve truck safety on the highways. One of the pivotal elements of the FMCSRs is the “Hours of Service” regulation. This rule dictates how long a truck driver can be on the road before they are required by law to take a rest. For instance:

  • Truck drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • They cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Mandatory 30-minute breaks are required after 8 hours of driving.

In addition, the Louisiana Revised Statute 32:81 emphasizes the duty of every driver to exercise due care and maintain control over their vehicle at all times. While it does not specifically address truck driver fatigue, its implications are clear – drivers, including truck drivers, should not be operating if they are not in a fit state, which includes being overly tired. 

Furthermore, Louisiana courts have highlighted an employer’s responsibility to monitor and enforce driver fatigue rules. And in one ground-breaking case, where the plaintiff argued that the trucking company had created a corporate culture that encouraged flouting driver fatigue rules, the court agreed, setting a precedent for considering corporate culture in assessing liability for a fatigue-related truck accident. 

First, federal and state laws work together in a sort of legal harmony to keep tired truckers off the road. But the laws are not self-enforcing. Companies and drivers can, and do, cut corners, which is a significant contributor to fatigue-related truck accidents.

But not only do truck drivers have to answer for this negligence, so do their employers. This is important because it broadens the victims’ avenues for accountability and compensation. With the help of a skilled truck accident lawyer, Baton Rouge truck accident victims may be able to hold both the fatigued truck driver and their employer financially liable for the damages they have suffered.

What to Do if You are Involved in a Truck Accident in Baton Rouge

First, prioritize safety. Get to a secure location and seek immediate medical attention if necessary.

If you suspect driver fatigue played a part, gather evidence: note the time, location, and any signs of fatigue from the driver. Photos, eyewitness accounts, and the driver’s logs can be invaluable.

Lastly, do not navigate the legal maze alone. Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers has experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyers ready to advocate on your behalf.

Get the Baton Rouge Truck Accident Lawyers at Dudley DeBosier Involved Today!

Truck driver fatigue is a big problem in Baton Rouge and across the country, but it is not going unchecked. There are multiple layers of regulations designed to keep fatigued truck drivers off the road. In addition, case law shows a trend towards holding both drivers and employers responsible for fatigue-related truck accidents.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in Baton Rouge, do not navigate this journey alone. Truck driver fatigue is a real and pressing issue, and you deserve justice. Contact Dudley DeBosier to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer in Baton Rouge. Our lawyers understand the intricacies of these accidents and will stand by your side, ensuring your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve. Time is of the essence. Let us help you get back on the road to recovery.

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