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Can time of day be a factor in a truck-car collision?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does a great deal of research into highway accidents caused by truck drivers. Their findings show that fatigue is a significant problem for truckers and one of the major factors in crashes.

Accidents happen more frequently at certain hours, but it is not just because of morning rush-hour traffic or poor visibility on a dark and stormy night. If a tractor-trailer suddenly swerves into your lane and sideswipes you on a clear, sunny afternoon, time of day may still be a contributing factor in the collision.

Fatigue is the enemy

Professional truck drivers work long hours, often with inadequate sleep. They may feel tired due to mental or physical exertion, and fatigue can impair their driving skills. According to the FMCSA, findings from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study reveal that 13 percent of the commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in crashes suffered from fatigue when their accidents occurred. 

The circadian rhythm problem

Circadian rhythm is the term given to the body's wake-sleep cycle. Everyone has an internal clock that regulates their pattern of alertness. For example, most people grow drowsy at night and are more alert during the morning hours. If a driver does not get enough sleep, the natural lulls in the circadian rhythm become stronger, possibly resulting in adverse effects on alertness and driving performance.

Times of concern

Due to circadian rhythm, drowsiness occurs most often between midnight and 6 a.m. and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, incidents relating to drowsiness occur most frequently in the first hour of driving, often after waking from a nap. Researchers believe that a truck driver may experience what they call sleep inertia shortly after waking. Although the FMCSA encourages drivers to pull over for a nap when they begin to feel drowsy, they also recommend allowing at least 15 minutes to become fully awake before getting behind the wheel.

Looking for signs

As a motorist, you should always look for alerts, signals that any driver may be feeling sleepy. Paying attention to signs of erratic driving will help you avoid a truck-car accident, along with the possibility of serious injury. Remember that you and the truck driver in the next lane could connect in a tragic way, somewhere around three o'clock on a sunny afternoon.

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