In North Carolina, there are more than 125 trucking fatalities in an average year-indeed, we rank among the states with the highest number of truck accidents.
One of the most common causes of such crashes is driver fatigue. Truckers work longer hours than most Americans - by far - and their excessive hours lead to drowsiness, inattention and, ultimately, collisions. Congress has enacted legislation to keep truckers' schedules in check. There are strict rules concerning how long truckers are allowed to remain on the road and the breaks they must take between drives.
Now, however, five states-North Carolina included-are waiving these hours of service regulations, which could have a detrimental effect on other drivers and pedestrians along our state's highways.
Will accidents increase after the gas spill?
The states are waiving the laws because of a pipeline gas leak in Alabama. Simply put, 6,000 barrels of gasoline intended for North Carolina and other aresa were lost. Gas prices throughout the state shot up and we faced a fuel shortage.
As such, fuel transporters in the region were permitted to flout truckers' hours of service regulations. Whereas before, drivers were compelled to take 10-hour breaks before long shifts, and 34-hour breaks in advance of a work week, now they can set their schedules as they please.
With payment as an incentive to stay behind the wheel, it's likely that many truckers will test their stamina. Unfortunately, they may also test the durability and safety standards of the cars alongside them. And also the ability of personal injury attorneys to recoup compensation for affected clients.
Debate on Regulation
Incidents like the gas leak raise quesitons about why the regulations are in place, and what types of situations are serious enough to override them. If waivers are truly short-term, there may not be an impact on accident rates. Yet a lack of collisions during a waiver periodshouldn't be used as evidence to throw out the laws entirely. It is immeasurably better to have a surfeit of regulatory statutes than a surfeit of truck fatalities.