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"Microsleep" can cause commercial vehicle accidents

Last week's post discussed the rules North Carolina truckers must follow on how long they can drive before stopping for an extended break. The idea of these regulations is that fatigued driving is dangerous, so those who driver large vehicles must stop to sleep from time-to-time to avoid commercial truck accidents.

Especially for the truck driver on a tight delivery schedule, however, there is still the temptation to believe that someone who is tired is simply a little slow on the draw and bleary eyed. In other words, some might think lack of sleep is nothing that cannot be cured with a shower, a large cup of coffee and a little bit of heightened attention behind the wheel.

What people may not realize is that when tired, their bodies can go into a state of "microsleep" without any kind of warning, or even the person's awareness that a microsleep has occurred. Although doctors still do not entirely understand microsleep, some have described it as the act of the brain shutting down certain areas, while a person is still conscious. One can think of it as a rolling blackout in a body that is overly tired and does not have enough stamina to continue functioning fully.

The symptoms of microsleep are serious when they affect someone behind the wheel. A person will take on, to more or less of a degree, a hypnotic state, one in which they are not aware of, even their most immediate surroundings. For example, a driver in microsleep might not see upcoming brake lights or a traffic signal.

Fatigued driving is dangerous, especially with respect to large commercial vehicles. Those who engage it and cause an accident by doing so, can and should be held accountable.

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