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Trucker’s Medical Condition and Serious Truck Crashes

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Per the federal government’s most recent final statistics, 5,000 people were killed in the United States in commercial truck crashes in 2018. A preliminary accounting of 2019 fatal motor vehicle accidents has this number repeating last year.

Why do fatal truck accidents continue to hold steady, while total fatal motor vehicle crashes have fallen in recent years? A report issued over the summer provides some insights.

Driver Errors and Big-Rig Crashes

The 2006 federal research, “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” found driver error the leading cause of big-rig crashes. The top careless driving behaviors cited were:

·         Poor decision making – driving too fast for road or weather conditions, for example

·         Inattentive or distracted driving

·         Poor performance – such as when a truck driver panics and jack-knifes tractor trailer

·         Non-performance – tired driver falls asleep or physically impaired for some other reason

In June the U.S. Department of Transportation released a new study of commercial truck accidents (“Commercial Driver Safety Factors”). The researchers, using nearly 21,000 commercial truckers, further studied numerous driver and situational considerations that lead to tractor-trailer wrecks.

In this study, known risk factors for commercial truck drivers were more closely examined.

Truck Driver Health Linked to Crash Chances

The four truck crash risk factors examined by the researchers were:

·         Medical condition of the truck driver

·         Truckers’ prior moving violations

·         Age and driving experience of the truck driver

·         Likelihood of trucker having sleep apnea

The researchers found that truckers were significantly more obese than the general population. Truckers also smoked more than most people.

The crash risk increased for truck drivers who were severely overweight as they tended to have serious health conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea.  Obstructive sleep apnea prevents a restful night’s sleep due to numerous breathing interruptions.

This condition is very dangerous in over-the-road truck drivers, as it typically causes significant fatigue during the day, when they are on the highways with other cars.

The study found that truckers with treated obstructed sleep apnea were much less likely to be in a preventable crash than truckers not receiving treatment:

·         Drivers 34-42 years old with treated OSA 92% less likely to crash than same-aged untreated truckers

·         Drivers 43-51 with treated OSA 69% less likely to crash

Tobacco use was not the direct cause of trucking crashes.  But the unhealthy byproducts of smoking were.  For example, truckers over the age of 52 with untreated lung and chest problems were almost four times as likely to crash as those without them.

A trucker’s driving history also turned out to be a predictor of future bad acts.  The study found that truck drivers convicted for moving violations within the last three years were more likely to crash and have more moving violations than those with a clean driving record.

Potentially dangerous medical conditions should be known by truckers, if not their employers.  And truck drivers’ histories are supposed to be scrutinized through a database initiated at the beginning of the year.  So there shouldn’t be an excuse to overlook these known risk factors for catastrophic trucking accidents.

If you lost a loved one or you were seriously injured in a commercial truck crash, an experienced semi-truck accident attorney can pursue your legal rights to just compensation from all those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog November 10, 2020