Many people make questionable decisions every day when it comes to driving motor vehicles. People choose to get behind the wheel after drinking, taking prescription or recreational drugs or even when so tired they can barely keep their eyes open. Other people choose to text, read, change clothing or apply makeup while driving, resulting in dangerous levels of distraction. All of those behaviors increase the risk of a serious motor vehicle collision.
Of course, some of these issues are easier to track and prove than others. Chemical tests reliably indicate when someone was under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Phone records and eyewitnesses, as well as traffic cameras, can help prove someone was on a phone or texting. When it comes to exhaustion, however, it is very hard to prove.
How exhaustion impacts your ability to drive
When you get behind the wheel feeling fatigued, exhausted or drowsy, you simply can’t drive as well as you can when you are alert. Exhaustion leads to a number of serious issues on the road. These include impaired vision, increased reaction time and bad decision-making abilities, as well as issues with information processing and memory.
Sleepiness causes worse performance in drivers, while also reducing their motivation and vigilance to the road condition. It can also lead to bad moods and aggressive behaviors, including road rage.
Those unwanted side effects are bad enough when they impact people in typical passenger vehicles. When a commercial driver chooses to get into a rig while exhausted or drive for longer than legally allowed by federal law, they put everyone else on the road at risk.
Some companies cultivate a culture of drowsiness
Trucking is a hard job, with long hours, repetitive scenery and a lot of responsibilities. There are also a lot of factors outside the control of the driver, including the weather and the behavior of other people on the road. A traffic jam could be the difference between getting a shipment delivered on time and showing up late. As a result of pressure to deliver on time, many truckers engage in questionable practices.
They might drive on surface streets not graded for their weight to avoid traffic. They could also choose to speed or even to take stimulants and continue driving when the law says they need to rest. Companies can incentivize truckers to engage in this kind of behavior by offering bonuses for on-time delivery or higher per-mile pay for those who deliver within a certain window. That can lead to truck drivers intentionally bending or breaking rules about rest times and log books. When that happens, the potential for a crash goes up, and everyone else on the road pays the price.