Nearly 1.7 million people live in the New York borough of Manhattan, not to mention the hundreds of office buildings, schools, and concert venues, like Madison Square Garden. Despite New York City’s great public transportation options, driver fatigue can and does create problems for people that live in the area.
Daily, the borough of Manhattan’s population swells to nearly three times its normal population. New York houses some of the largest financial firms, schools, and sports arenas in the country, and several large roadways converge in Manhattan, making traffic a serious problem. Manhattan also experiences significant truck traffic—as all of these facilities depend on big rigs to get them the products, materials, and supplies they need to continue operating.
Understanding Issues Surrounding Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue can prove dangerous—in fact, any driver who operates a motor vehicle while drowsy poses a danger to others on the road, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
Some of the signs that indicate drivers may feel fatigued include:
- Challenges keeping their eyes open
- Frequent yawning
- Difficulties keeping head upright
- Nodding off while driving
- Forgetting directions or the destination
- Missing turns or road signs
- Challenges maintaining speed
- Lane drifting
As you can see, if you share the roadway with a truck driver who feels fatigued, you face a risk of sustaining a serious injury in a collision. Any one of these issues can result in an accident. Remember that any driver can feel drowsy behind the wheel; however, stopping or moving a truck presents unusual challenges for drivers. Not only do they have to know they need to stop, but they also need sufficient road area to successfully stop the vehicle.
The larger the vehicle, the more room a driver needs to reach a complete stop. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a fully loaded truck traveling at 65 miles per hour needs the equivalent of two football fields to come to a complete stop. When you share one of the busy interstates that cross through Manhattan, and a fatigued truck driver following you does not realize traffic has slowed down, you face a serious risk of sustaining a significant injury if the driver does not stop completely.
Manhattan Interstates: Gateways and Danger Zones
Manhattan and its roadways join New York with other states in the northeast, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The traffic in this area increases during rush hour, and thanks to a thriving industrial base, creates some of the area’s busiest roadways.
Some of the areas in which you commonly see heavy truck traffic include:
- Interstate 78 – this roadway connects Manhattan to several areas, extending all the way to Pennsylvania. While the total length of this roadway within Manhattan doesn’t even reach one mile, tractor-trailers frequently travel on this road. While the road does not extend through Manhattan, it still poses a threat to drivers if a drowsy truck driver causes an accident.
- Interstate 95 – running from Florida to the U.S.-Canada border, this busy Interstate includes more than 23 miles of roadway in New York. A significant area of this roadway goes through Manhattan, making it a well-traveled roadway for tractor-trailers delivering goods up and down the east coast. Drivers must always exercise caution on this roadway. Because of the length of this roadway, drivers face a high risk of dealing with a drowsy truck driver.
- Interstate 278 – since the ‘60s, this busy portion of roadway has served as a gateway to New Jersey for trucks, visitors, and residents of Manhattan. Nearly 30 miles of this roadway stretches through Manhattan, and tractor-trailers frequently drive this route.
- S. Route 9 – this roadway spans nearly 325 miles. Locals know a portion of U.S. Route 9 in Manhattan as the George Washington Bridge, and this road has specific regulations when it comes to truck traffic.
These roadways account for only about half of the U.S. Routes and Interstates that impact traffic in Manhattan. Driver fatigue always poses an issue, but if you frequent one of these busy roadways to commute to work or for other reasons, you should understand the impact of driver fatigue on those who share the road with you. If you sustain injuries in a collision with a truck on any of the roadways in Manhattan, you may need to determine if driver fatigue contributed to the accident, particularly if the accident involved a truck. A Manhattan truck accident lawyer can help answer your questions and help you hold the responsible party accountable for your injuries and other damages.
Federal Regulations Pertaining to Rest Times
Truckers must follow certain rules of the road that don’t apply to most of us who operate a motor vehicle. For example, certain federal rules exist that apply to drivers who deliver goods, passengers, and/or hazardous materials. One set of rules applies to resting times; these rules aim to keep not only those who operate trucks safely, but those with whom they share the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets out guidelines for when operators of big rigs must take rest breaks. Drivers must take these regulations seriously; for example, drivers must make notes in a logbook that clearly indicates when they operated the truck, the mileage they traveled, and when they took rest breaks.
Driver fatigue constitutes a serious problem that the public shouldn’t take lightly. Unfortunately, certain factors may influence a driver to travel longer than allowed, and a driver’s employer may encourage its employees to skirt these rules in certain situations.
Some of these factors include:
- Rewarding drivers who meet deadlines – deadlines may not only encourage drivers to take unnecessary speeding risks, but may also encourage a driver to ignore the hours-of-service rules. This may result in drivers operating big rigs on the road without sufficient sleep. In these cases, the driver’s employer may feel partially responsible for injuries the victim sustains in an accident with big rigs. Some companies may face challenges finding qualified drivers and therefore provide incentives for on-time deliveries.
- Turning a blind eye to log entries – when an employer ignores clear violations of the rules by ignoring log entries that indicate a driver has operated longer than allowed, the driver may consider his or her actions acceptable. These types of violations put every driver on the road at risk of sustaining an injury due to a fatigued truck driver.
- Ignoring health conditions – drivers who have diabetes, suffer sleep apnea, or take certain medications should not operate a truck unless cleared fully by a medical professional. Additionally, these drivers often should work under tighter restrictions than drivers without these health issues. Employers who fail to inquire whether their drivers suffer from certain health conditions, or who ignore them, put everyone else on the road in peril.
These constitute just a few examples of what tactics owners of trucking facilities use to encourage their drivers to violate the rules that help keep others on Manhattan roadways safe. Unfortunately, a shortage of truckers across the United States can result in poorly thought-out hiring practices, companies encouraging drivers to push beyond the limits of the law, and even outright flouting of federal regulations regarding periods of rest for truckers.
Drowsy Truck Driving Poses a Danger to Everyone
Drivers who operate any motor vehicle while drowsy pose a danger to other drivers, pedestrians, and bicycle operators. The effect of a cumulative lack of sleep can prove as dangerous as alcohol or drug use. Lack of proper rest slows everyone down.
You cannot properly react to your surroundings if you have to focus on remaining alert while driving—this constitutes a distinct distraction and may lead to a whole host of accidents, including:
- Rear-end collisions – drivers who operate big trucks without sufficient rest cannot effectively gauge their distance from the leading vehicles. In many cases, this can result in rear-end collisions. While many people tend to think of rear-end collisions as minor, stop and consider what could happen if you suddenly come to a stop and a fully loaded truck fails to stop in time. The resulting collision could involve multiple vehicles.
- Sideswipe collisions – if a lack of sleep has compromised a driver’s senses and ability to react, the driver may drift into other lanes. Sideswipe collisions involving big rigs often prove particularly dangerous because the driver may over-correct and, as a result, the truck can overturn. Victims can suffer crushing injuries, and trucks may spill their loads into the roadway, which can cause other vehicle operators to sustain injuries in an accident because they couldn’t get out of the way in time.
- Blind spot accidents – alert truck drivers may not see another vehicle in their blind spot, but they may realize that a car is missing from their line of sight, which could make them more cautious about changing lanes. Blind spot accidents occur frequently, and a drowsy driver could suffer serious injuries in a preventable accident due to a truck driver’s failure to check his or her blind spots.
It may take some investigative work to determine whether drowsy driving contributed to an accident. Anytime you have sustained injuries in a Manhattan truck accident, you should contact a lawyer who understands New York law and who has experience handling accidents involving large trucks.
Taking Action Following a Manhattan Truck Accident
Victims of a drowsy truck driver on a Manhattan roadway often believe they have plenty of time to consider whether to hire an attorney to help them seek compensation for their injuries. After all, the statute of limitations extends for three full years following an accident.
However, injured individuals must take into account certain factors when considering whether to hire a truck accident lawyer, including:
- Memories fade as events get older – if any bystanders witnessed the accident that resulted in your injuries, you should attempt to take witness statements as quickly as possible. As people move on with their lives, the memory of an accident they witnessed could fade, and they may no longer recall specifics.
- Video evidence won’t last forever – videos, such as those found on security cameras or street cams, may not last forever, so you get your hands on such evidence as quickly as possible. Many of the facilities that use security tapes overwrite the tapes every 30 days, so you want to make sure to gather evidence in a timely fashion.
- Insurance adjusters will not wait – rest assured the insurance adjusters will contact you soon after you file a claim. The insurance company will flood you with telephone calls and document requests, and it may request that you sign medical releases. The company wants to uncover evidence that it can use to devalue your claim.
Given the complexity of truck accident cases, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. Negotiating with an insurance company will take time, and every day that goes by counts against your three-year limit on filing a lawsuit. Your truck accident attorney in Manhattan understands the various tactics insurance companies will use to try to run out the clock on your claim.
Accidents often prove traumatic for everyone involved. When you believe a trucker in Manhattan fell asleep at the wheel and caused your accident, you have every right to feel angry, but your anger will not help you financially. Rather than allowing your emotions to control your next moves, contact a Manhattan truck accident attorney, and let a professional explain your legal rights.
Once you know your options to recover financially from an accident, you can then make the best possible decisions for your family. Remember, having a free consultation does not obligate you to hire an attorney. In addition, when you do hire an attorney, you will not pay any legal fees until and unless your attorney successfully recovers a settlement for your injuries.