It’s hard to say how many commercial truck crashes are due to driver fatigue, but it’s a lot. One trucking company estimated it at around 70% of all crashes. The crash reports aren’t always clear about the problem, because drivers don’t always admit that fatigue caused them to lose track and crash.
So, a crash report could easily say that a collision was caused by road conditions when it was a fatigued response to the road conditions that was the true cause.
We do know that driving commercial trucks is tiring. It can be boring and even hypnotic. The problem is important enough that federal regulations limit the number of hours drivers can work and mandate certain breaks.
When the driver of an 18-wheeler gets too tired, it can be critically dangerous to themselves and other drivers.
Now, technology is beginning to catch up. Over the past couple of years, companies have rolled out a number of things that could help truckers become aware of the fact that they’re sleepy before that sleepiness causes a crash. For example:
Optalert makes glasses that measure how drivers are blinking. When a driver’s eyes stay closed for too long, it could indicate drowsiness, and a dash-mounted device will sound an alarm.
Maven Machines has created a headset that can tell where the driver’s eyes are pointed. It notices when drivers start checking their mirrors less frequently and lets the driver know they may be getting tired. Moreover, it detects bobbing and jerking heads, which could indicate the driver is beginning to fall asleep. It also provides coaching around safe driving.
The SmartCap is a headband that drivers can wear in their caps or other headgear. It measures the driver’s brain waves to detect alertness or fatigue and notifies the driver and a central monitoring system if the driver becomes drowsy.
The Guardian from Seeing Machines is a dash-mounted camera with face- and gaze-tracking algorithms. Essentially, it watches the driver’s eyes and face and sounds an alarm if its safety parameters are not met.
Fatigue Science developed software that analyze sleep data from wearables like the FitBit, including the driver’s quantity and quality of sleep from the night before and sleep debt over time. It then projects when a driver is likely to feel tired. The idea is to give drivers the heads up before they get so tired their eyes are drooping.
These technologies may not serve to address the underlying issues of drowsy driving, but they could help.
If you have been injured by a drowsy truck driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for an assessment of your case.