Drowsiness plays a role in about 100,000 motor vehicle accidents throughout California and the rest of the country each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and fatigued tractor-trailer drivers are an especially serious road hazard. About 13 percent of all fatal truck accidents involve a drowsy driver, and strictly enforcing federal hours of service regulations have not been enough to stem the problem.
Driving hundreds of miles on repetitive roads can make remaining vigilant a challenge, but several technology companies have developed devices and systems designed to keep truck operators awake and alert. These systems use cameras and sensors to monitor drivers and watch out for unusual head or eye movements. Some systems are even able to identify a driver’s posture and individual habits. In addition to monitoring driver behavior, this technology keeps track of hours logged behind the wheel and issues alerts when hours of service limits are reached.
Fatigue is common when truck drivers change shifts and their normal sleeping patterns are interrupted. Some of the more sophisticated driver monitoring systems take this and other factors such as road and weather conditions into account. These systems have been found to reduce distraction by up to 70 percent and insurance claims by as much as 35 percent.
Experienced personal injury attorneys preparing truck accident lawsuits may study hours of service records and official accident reports. Police investigations could also reveal evidence of impairment or distraction that could be used to establish recklessness in court. When vehicle inspections uncover signs of inadequate maintenance or shoddy repair work, attorneys may initiate lawsuits against trucking companies or their insurance providers even if no criminal charges are filed. This is because the standard of proof in civil court is not as strict as it is in a criminal trial.