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Truck accident trends: Asleep at the wheel

A truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. In your SUV or sedan, you feel very conscious of that weight difference -- your vehicle is likely in the 3,000 to 4,000-pound range -- every time you pass a truck. It towers over you. In an accident, your car could slide right under the truck as it obliterates your passenger compartment.

How worried should you be? According to some sources, deadly accidents are getting more likely, and many experts note that part of the issue is that drivers keep falling asleep at the wheel.

Working too hard?

Truck drivers make their living by covering miles. If the truck is not moving, they are not earning. Their livelihood depends on it.

When a truck driver starts nodding off and knows that he or she is too tired to drive, is that trucker going to push to drive too far and work too hard? It happens. Pulling over for a nap means missed deadlines, less money and perhaps a poor reputation in the community. Driven by money, these tired individuals just push on. Sometimes, that means they fall asleep and cause fatal accidents.

Late shifts

A related problem is one often seen with shift work: When shifts change, people get tired. The body does not adjust immediately to staying up at night and sleeping during the day. If truck drivers take jobs that require them to drive through the night, even if they do not break the regulations about driving too many hours in a row, is that really safe? Could late shifts throw the body and mind out of sync and cause drivers to drift off behind the wheel?

Sleep apnea

Another serious issue is sleep apnea. This disorder disrupts your sleep and makes you feel less refreshed. Even if a trucker takes the proper amount of time off and tries to sleep through the night, sleep apnea could mean he or she feels exhausted on the road.

Of course, this could be an issue for anyone, in any profession, but some reports have linked it to trucking. For instance, the odds that someone will get sleep apnea appear much higher for those who also struggle with obesity. According to some federal studies, about 66 percent of truck drivers in the United States count as obese. That means that this group of workers, in particular, has a high risk of sleep apnea.

Your options

An accident involving an 80,000-pound truck can put you in the hospital with serious and often life-altering injuries. Medical bills soar as you get treatment. Lost wages accumulate as you cannot return to work. For all of this and more, make sure you know what legal rights you may have to seek compensation.

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