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Federal laws aim to reduce fatigued commercial driving

There are many factors that impact how safely someone can drive. Alcohol, illegal drugs, over-the-counter medication and prescriptions can all impact driving safety. Distractions are also a big source of risk on the road. Texting while driving, checking social media, eating, changing or adjusting clothing, or reaching into the rear of a cab or under a seat can all result in a driver failing to notice changes to driving conditions that can lead to serious accidents.

Another factor that can lead to serious accidents, crashes and collisions is exhaustion or fatigue. Anyone who gets behind the wheel while feeling tired puts themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. When that person operates a massive commercial vehicle, the results could be a crash that injures or kills people in a passenger vehicle.

How exhaustion affects your driving

According to the National Sleep Foundation, being awake for 18 straight hours created the same level of impairment as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent, which is just below the legal drunk cutoff level of 0.08 percent. For those who try to drive after staying awake for a full 24 hours, the result is similar to having a BAC of 0.10 percent, which is well over the legal limit.

Drowsy driving limits your ability to pay proper attention to the road. You may find yourself easily distracted by things that take your eyes off your surroundings or your hands off the wheel. Driving while tired also reduces your ability to make decisions quickly, which is critical to safe driving.

Hours of service laws limit how long truckers can drive

Given that commercial trucks pose a massive risk of injury or death to people in passenger vehicles, it's no wonder that federal laws are in place to limit potential exhausted driving. These rules, called Hours of Service, aim to ensure that commercial drivers have adequate rest and aren't forced to drive when they are dangerously tired.

For example, commercial drivers transporting goods or property can only drive at most 11 hours after 10 hours off duty. Even if they take breaks, they may not drive beyond the 14th hour after their last 10 hour off-duty break. They must also limit their driving to no more than 60 hours in a seven consecutive day period and 70 hours in an eight day period.

In order to ensure compliance with these laws, truck drivers typically fill out log books that contain information about their breaks and rest periods. Unfortunately, pressure for on-time deliveries may result in drivers falsifying the information in these books or otherwise knowingly breaking the laws regarding their hours of service. When that happens, the potential for a crash with another vehicle increases.

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