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How big of a role does truck driver fatigue really play?

Do you know what type of vehicle constitutes a "large truck?" Even though many Connecticut residents suffer truck accident injuries every year, a surprising number have difficulty identifying large trucks -- and even fewer understand the crash statistics surrounding these vehicles. In order to understand your legal rights and responsibilities after a truck crash, victims need to have a basic understanding about truck safety.

Large trucks are vehicles that weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds, regardless of whether they consist of single- or multi-unit setups. The maximum allowable length for a trailer is 53 feet, though semi-truck drivers may haul two 28-foot trucks through some states. Individual states can set roads for highways and side streets, but the federal commercial vehicle standard maximum is 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

Does truck driver fatigue play a proven role in truck crashes? Undoubtedly it does. Research shows that tired truck drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than an eight-hour shift double their crash risk. Even those truck drivers who believe that they are well-rested may suffer from fatigue because of disturbances in their normal sleep/wake cycles, leading to a particularly dangerous situation for other drivers on the road. A surprising number of truck drivers actually fall asleep at the wheel because of violations of federal trucking regulations that mandate rest periods.

What about alcohol and drugs? A truck accident may be caused by an intoxicated truck driver, but the rates of such crashes are far lower than those caused by drivers of smaller vehicles. Research shows that about 4 percent of fatal truck crashes involved alcohol use, as compared to a rate of more than one in three for their passenger vehicle counterparts. Still, it is conceivable that a drunk truck driver could cause a serious truck accident in Connecticut.

Truck accident victims have legal rights and options after their incident. At-fault drivers may be held financially responsible for a variety of claims, including pain and suffering or medical costs. Victims of such crashes deserve answers and justice.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Large trucks," accessed July 29, 2015

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