Driver fatigue has the potential to affect anybody and lead to vehicle accidents. But for commercial truck drivers, who spend many hours on the road to meet tight delivery deadlines, fatigue can be a substantial and deadly problem. To prevent truck accidents, federal law caps the number of hours drivers can work within a 24-hour period, and drivers must record their hours in a log book to prove they are complying with the law.
Fatigue appears to have been a factor in a truck crash involving a driver from the Chicago area. Accident reports indicate that the man was driving his tractor-trailer along the highway when he approached an area of congested traffic that was reducing speed because of another collision up the road involving two other trucks. The driver did not slow down, however, and slammed into a car carrying two young children, a husband, his wife and the wife's unborn child. All were killed in the accident.
Using information obtained from investigators, prosecutors argued that the driver had been on the road for 15 hours straight without rest at the time of the accident. The crash took place at 5 a.m., which means that the driver would have traveled through the night with no break. Prosecutors have charged him with a number of crimes in the case, including motor vehicle homicide, manslaughter and willful reckless driving.
Hours limits are there for public safety, but when drivers ignore them and cause harm to others, the law will hold them responsible. The criminal law attempts to deter others from engaging in similar behavior by imposing punishment on those who have broken the rules. The civil law aims to provide compensation to accident victims and their families, trying to make victims and surviving loved ones as whole as they can be after such crashes.
Source: Sidney Sun-Telegraph, "Driver in fatal accident bound over to district court," John Roark, Sept. 25, 2012
• Since log books may not always be accurate, other pieces of information, such as toll receipts, can be used to show if a truck driver has violated hours limits. You can learn more by visiting our Chicago truck accident page.