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Are fatigue and driver health connected to incidence of truck accidents?

Over the past few years, federal regulators have turned their attention to identifying the factors that commonly lead to truck accidents. Indeed, just last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published regulation changes intended to prevent truck driver fatigue, which many experts believe to be a leading cause of accidents. Many have also said that taking steps to ensure that drivers are in good health is also important, because conditions such as sleep apnea can contribute to fatigue.

Recently, however, some experts have expressed doubt that fatigue and driver health are responsible for as many serious truck accidents as some believe. This may help trucking companies to develop better methods for identifying drivers who pose a greater accident risk than others.

A decade ago, the FMSCA conducted its Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Federal researchers discovered that fatigue was identified as a factor in only about four percent of accidents. Interestingly, fatigue was a factor in about 13 percent of accidents that involved the truck alone. Only about .4 percent of multi-vehicle accidents were caused by truck driver fatigue. This seems to indicate that fatigue is a far greater risk to truck drivers themselves than it is to other drivers on the road.

Recent research has also shed light on the role of truck driver health as a possible factor in some accidents. A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, for example, found that nearly 70 percent of all professional truck drivers are obese. Just over 50 percent of truck drivers surveyed said that they smoked and very few drivers reported that they regularly exercised. Overall, NIOSH researchers discovered that just under 30 percent of truck drivers suffer from some form of sleep apnea.

None of these studies mean that fatigued driving is not dangerous, but rather that a great deal more research must be done before experts are able to pinpoint the myriad factors that can lead to serious truck accidents. The better the information collected, the more that federal regulators will be able to craft rules that offer clear safety benefits.

If you have suffered a serious injury in an accident caused by a commercial truck, remember that you have rights. Speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal options and what steps to take next. Do not delay, schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney today.

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