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Truck drivers are at risk for impaired driving due to fatigue

Truck driver fatigue is a topic of continuing concern in New York, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has attempted to address the issue by regulating the number of hours that truck drivers are allowed to work per day. Although the agency can mandate rest times, there is no guarantee that the operators are getting adequate sleep to prevent them from drowsy driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research co-sponsored a study on the effects of driver fatigue and motor vehicle accidents, and the results indicate the mandated schedules do not prevent impaired driving.

There is no way to measure sleepiness after a crash as there is with an alcohol-related collision. However, the study outlined several characteristics that are often present in a fatigue-related crash. The time periods when these accidents typically take place are late night or early morning, and midafternoon. The driver makes no effort to avoid the crash, which usually involves a single vehicle with no passengers leaving a high-speed road.

Those who work long or irregular hours or who frequently work at night are particularly susceptible to these types of crashes, according to data provided by NHTSA. Also at risk are those who have untreated sleep disorders, particularly sleep apnea and narcolepsy. The erratic schedules and sleeping patterns of many truck drivers put them at high risk for driver fatigue.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a driver who has been awake for 18 hours is functioning at the same level of impairment as a person who has a blood alcohol concentration of .05. After 24 hours, the impairment increases to .10. Truck drivers are limited by federal regulations to only 11 hours on the road each day, but they are allowed to work for 14 hours. This type of schedule may make it difficult for a person to get an adequate amount of sleep so that it is possible to function at full capacity.

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