Mississippi motorists may find themselves at risk when their paths cross with a commercial truck operated by a tired driver. 

The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that up to 20% of large truck or bus crashes in the United States may involve a drowsy driver. Insufficient sleep may have effects similar to alcohol consumption, as going 21 hours without sleep may be comparable to having a .08% blood alcohol concentration. 

Many factors contribute to truck driver fatigue 

GHSA explains that a tired driver may exhibit impaired judgment, greater lapses in attention, slower reaction time and even brief moments of sleep while behind the wheel. Drivers of large trucks may struggle with fatigue as they manage unpredictable schedules, long hours and stressful job demands. While federal law imposes “hours of service” regulations, these rules may not be adequate to keep tired truck drivers off the road. 

Technology may help mitigate risks 

The New York Times reports that technological advances may help anticipate and mitigate some of the dangers posed by sleepy drivers. Recent changes to law require electronic logging systems on most commercial trucks to ensure accurate reporting of work shifts and breaks. Dashboard-mounted cameras may observe a driver and issue a safety warning to a sleepy driver in the form of alarms or a vibrating seat. 

Wearable technology may also prove useful to monitor a driver’s movements and behavior: 

  • A smart headband that fits into a trucker’s cap measures electronic brain waves to indicate alertness or fatigue. 
  • A headset detects head movements that might signal a driver is dozing off. 
  • Glasses with an LED light measure a driver’s eye blinks as an indicator of sleepiness. 

Experts warn that technology does not necessarily resolve the overall issue of truck driver drowsiness. The trucking industry may also need to change its business practices to support tired drivers.