Serious Dangers Caused by Microsleeping in Truck Drivers

Among long-haul commercial truck drivers, fatigued driving is an occupational hazard. Endless hours on the road, the stress of trying to meet tight delivery schedules, and the tedium of long expanses of highways are just some of the reasons why fatigued driving is such a huge problem in the commercial trucking industry.

When truck operators are sleep-deprived and battling extreme exhaustion, they are at a heightened risk of experiencing episodes of microsleep. Microsleep is a short period of sleep that lasts between a fraction of a second to several consecutive seconds.

Falling asleep behind the wheel, even for a moment, while in control of an enormous 80,000-pound commercial vehicle could have devastating results, especially if other drivers or pedestrians are in the area. If you were injured in a trucking accident and suspect fatigued driving was the cause, contact an experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today. 

What Causes Microsleep?

A common problem among commercial truckers and the driving force behind microsleep is inadequate rest. Despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service rule, truckers still find ways to circumvent these laws and deliver their payloads on time. This means they often drive while drowsy.

Microsleep can also be a symptom of several sleep disorders such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This blockage of the upper airway disrupts breathing during sleep, and causes inadequate oxygen flow to the brain. Those with obstructive sleep apnea are usually tired during the day because they wake up frequently during the night.
  • Narcolepsy: This is a chronic neurological disorder that involves the sleep-wake cycles controlled by the brain. Narcolepsy causes the patient to fall asleep intermittently throughout the day.  
  • Periodic limb movement disorder: PLMD is a condition in which the legs and arms jerk, flex, and twitch during sleep. These involuntary movements can happen as often as every 20 seconds and continue throughout the night.
  • Circadian rhythm disorder: This problem occurs when a person’s internal clock, which tells your body when it’s time to wake up or go to sleep, is out of sync with their environment. This disorder presents with symptoms such as recall issues and trouble staying awake. 

What Are the Symptoms of Microsleep?

Some symptoms commonly associated with episodes of microsleep are: 

  • Unusually slow blinking
  • Hard time keeping eyes open
  • Unable to remember the few minutes
  • Not responding to stimuli
  • Blank stares
  • Sudden body twitches or jerks
  • Excessive yawning
  • Head dropping down and then jerking back up

What Makes Microsleep So Dangerous?

Falling asleep when you didn’t mean to can make just about any situation dangerous. This is especially true, however, when you are behind the wheel of an oversized commercial truck where it only takes one tiny mistake to yield disastrous consequences. For instance, if a truck driver traveling at 60 miles per hour dozes off and drifts into the wrong lane for three seconds, they could cover roughly 300 feet of highway while going in the wrong direction.

Is the Trucking Industry Doing Anything to Address Microsleep?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration established the Hours of Service rule. It was designed to prevent accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers. The HOS rule states that:

  • Drive time: Commercial truck drivers transporting goods may drive no more than 11 consecutive hours only after they have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • Length of total shift: Once a truck driver is on duty, they can work no more than 14 hours. This includes gas stops, vehicle inspections, etc.
  • Rest periods: Truck drivers are required to take a half-hour break after eight hours of driving. A minimum of seven of a driver’s 10 off-duty hours have to be taken in the sleeper berth of the truck. 

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

If you were seriously injured in a fatigue-related commercial trucking accident, please contact the Virginia truck accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp right away. To schedule a free case review, call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out the contact form on our website. 

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