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Drowsy driving a danger for big rig drivers

Los Angeles is a city full of drivers. It is hard to imagine life in L.A. without a vehicle, and the clogged freeways during rush hour are a testament to Californians love of their automobiles.

But while traffic congestion is a definite annoyance, there is a real safety hazard that can claim lives — the problem of drowsy driving. This is a growing problem all over the United States, and the risk is alarming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are specific categories of drivers most at risk for driving while fatigued, and one of them is long-haul truckers driving 18-wheelers.

The problem is rooted in the long hours truckers must drive in order to meet deadlines. Companies that push their drivers to meet impossible deadlines can be held legally liable if and when a driver causes an accident that kills or maims other drivers or passengers.

The statistics are frightening. When surveyed, a quarter of truckers asked admitted to falling asleep while driving their big rigs in the month prior to the survey. The average number of hours of sleep for truckers is less than five hours per night. But the human body requires between seven and eight hours each night to be fully rested. It is no wonder that in 65 percent of fatal collisions involving large trucks, the deadly accidents occur to long-haul truckers at least 51 miles from their home base.

Truckers self-report that fatigue was the cause of an accident in 13 percent of the cases, making it number seven on the top 10 list of driver-reported causes of accidents.

Some studies list drowsy driving as a factor that contributes to as much as 40 percent of all collisions involving the big rig behemoths.

Fatigue lessens a trucker's ability to make safe driving decisions. This can mean that the truck driver realizes he or she is too drowsy to drive safely yet continues to do so anyway.

Below are some indicators of drowsy driving that should never be ignored.

-- Blinking or yawning repetitively

-- Missing an exit

-- Difficulty remembering driving the past few miles

-- Drifting from your lane

-- Hitting rumble strips on the road

Taking evasive actions if you observe a truck being driven erratically is wise. Those injured in accidents may need to file litigation to recover damages.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel," accessed Nov. 20, 201

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