Truck driver health issues can be a serious risk factor for accidents

Truck driver health issues or medical emergencies may be a more common factor in large truck accidents in Oklahoma than many people realize.

Large truck accidents can have catastrophic or deadly consequences, especially when people in smaller vehicles are involved. These accidents may occur for various reasons, from road conditions to vehicle issues to poor driver performance. The role that a truck driver’s health can play in a truck accident is often overlooked. However, data indicates accidents involving driver health issues or medical emergencies may pose a significant threat to Tulsa drivers.

Driver non-performance

National data shows that truck accidents involving driver health issues are not as rare as other motorists might like to think. During the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extensively surveyed the causes of commercial vehicle crashes. Researchers analyzed a representative sample of 963 large truck crashes to identify the underlying reasons for most crashes.

Driver actions or decisions were attributed to 87 percent of the crashes reviewed. Overall, 12 percent were attributed to “driver non-performance.” These accidents involved drivers falling asleep, suffering medical emergencies, or otherwise becoming physically incapacitated. Based on this finding, the FMCSA estimates that, nationally, 6,000 truck accidents involving these factors occurred during the study period.

Outlook in Oklahoma

A recent news investigation in Oklahoma called attention to the risk of truck accidents involving driver health issues. According to KOCO News, an analysis found that 23 large truck accidents occurring in Oklahoma in 2013 involved medical issues or emergencies. Medical problems may have been an unidentified factor in even more accidents. A Highway Patrol trooper also told KOCO News that authorities often see multiple truckers with expired medical cards each week.

The issuance of medical cards is supposed to ensure that truckers are medically qualified to safely perform their jobs. According to the FMCSA, a driver’s request for a card may be denied in the following situations:

  • The driver has a medical condition that could interfere with his or her ability to safely operate the vehicle.
  • The driver is using medication that may impair his or her driving ability.
  • The driver is receiving some other form of treatment that may have similar effects.

Last year, the FMCSA tightened the medical requirements that drivers must meet. Drivers must have their blood pressure, vision and hearing tested before receiving cards. Drivers with certain conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, may be denied cards. Unfortunately, drivers who lack current medical cards may not be medically fit to drive, leaving other motorists in needless danger.

KOCO News reports that Oklahoma authorities are now focusing more on enforcing these legal health restrictions. However, these efforts may not be enough to prevent every accident involving driver health issues.

Legal recourse may be available

If a driver’s known health condition contributes to an accident, victims may have legal recourse. A truck driver’s failure to comply with FMCSA safety regulations may constitute negligence. Similarly, a driver’s failure to take reasonable steps to control a potentially dangerous medical condition may represent negligence.

Anyone who has been injured in a large truck accident that may involve negligence should consider meeting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on potential legal options, based on the specific circumstances of the accident.

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