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Trucking industry responds to fatigue, distraction concerns

Some truck drivers in Illinois struggle with fatigue and distraction when behind the wheel. The National Safety Council reports that fatigue is a factor in more than one-quarter of single commercial vehicle accidents and 13 percent of fatal truck accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driver fatigue might cause up to 100,000 accidents each year involving all vehicles. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, over 15 percent of injury crashes and 10 percent of fatal crashes happen because of distraction.

Commercial truck drivers, who may drive for long, monotonous hours, may be particularly vulnerable to fatigue and distraction, and fleets are starting to respond. One company uses hours-of-service data and other information to try to predict whether a driver is likely to suffer from fatigue. Technology is playing a role as well with companies developing instruments that monitor signs such as a driver's eyelids drooping. The driver can be alerted with an alarm or a vibration. An app called SafeRide blocks phone usage. There are a number of other systems that can monitor driver behavior.

Some devices use artificial intelligence for sophisticated interpretations of a driver's behavior. For example, one device looks at an individual's posture and head position and is able to ascertain when that driver is distracted.

However, even these inventions cannot entirely eliminate truck accidents. These types of accidents may pose a particular danger to drivers of smaller vehicles who may be injured when a truck jackknifes, or in the event of an accident where a car goes underneath a truck. The larger size of trucks also means they may be more destructive when they hit a smaller vehicle or a pedestrian. If a truck driver causes such an accident, the driver and the trucking company might be considered financially liable for the injured person's expenses.

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