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Rollback of rest rules proposed while fatalities increase

Even in the wake of statistics suggesting that the number of fatal truck accidents on the roads is increasing, the Department of Transportation will propose a relaxation of the hours of service regulations, commonly known as the federal rest rules.

The proposed regulations are currently under review by another federal organization that will give an opinion on the budget impact these changes will have. The details of the proposed changes have not yet been made public. Currently, the rules limit how long a truck driver can operate before having to take a break so as to sleep.

At least according to some experts, these changes come at an odd time, as statistics show that the number of fatal semitruck accident injuries is actually on the rise. For example, in 2017, there were just under 4,250 fatal accidents involving large trucks, which marked a 10 percent increase over 2016. Likewise, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of injury accidents involving large trucks, up to 344,000.

What's particularly interesting about these statistics is that the vast majority of fatal accidents, 83 percent, happened in the evening and overnight hours, that is, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

While these accidents are not all necessarily related to fatigued driving, there is concern that many of them are somehow connected to a trucker's being too tired to drive safely. One federal agency has expressed concern that law enforcement officers may inadvertently downplay the role fatigued driving plays in the accidents they investigate.

With or without federal regulations, truck drivers who operate in Northeast Wisconsin have an obligation to drive safely and not cause accidents. Doing so naturally includes staying awake and alert while behind the wheel. If a driver fails in this important obligation and injures someone as a result, the victim may be able to receive compensation.

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