Proposed federal law has many people worried about an increase in drowsy driving accidents involving big rigs

Could Fewer Rest Breaks Mean More Trucking Accidents?

Driving while fatigued can dull any driver’s reflexes and lead to the potential for serious accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a driver’s risk of having an accident increases for every hour of sleep they lose. Drivers who get between five and six hours of sleep are twice as likely to have an accident, while those who get between four and five hours of sleep are four times as likely to have an accident, compared to drivers who get a full night’s sleep of seven to eight hours.

The dangers of drowsy driving are perhaps more serious for truckers, who drive long shifts, are under pressure to meet deadlines, and don’t have time to pull over and stop for a rest when their eyes start to close behind the wheel.

Currently, the risk of big rig truck accidents being caused by drowsy driving is limited in California by the fact that we have some of the strictest rest break requirements in the country. All California workers, including truck drivers, are required to take one 10-minute rest break every four hours of work and one 30-minute meal break every five hours of work.

Federal law, on the other hand, only requires truck drivers to take one 30-minute break during their first eight hours of driving.

The US House of Representatives will be considering new legislation this session that would preempt California’s labor laws and allow interstate truckers to follow the federal law instead. This would mean that truckers who drive into the state could potentially be operating on less rest than in-state truckers. Many local legislators as well as the Truck Safety Coalition worry that this change could increase the rate of drowsy driving accidents on California roads.

While the text of the bill specifically mentions interstate drivers, many experts worry that in-state drivers who work for interstate employers may fall into a legal loophole and be pressured to follow the federal law as well, thus increasing the number of potentially drowsy drivers on the road.

Have You Been Injured in a Big Rig Truck Accident?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, only 55 of 4,311 fatal truck crashes in 2015 were caused by drowsy truckers. Of course, fatigue may have been a factor in many more accidents—but simply not proven conclusively.

Fortunately, proving that a truck driver was drowsy when they caused an accident is not necessarily required in order to receive compensation. All you need to do is show that the trucker did in fact cause the accident. This should mean that their employer is liable.

If you would like help understanding your rights and options following a big rig truck accident, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 for a free consultation.