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I-10, midnight, an 18-wheeler and the circadian rhythm

Traffic on Interstate 10 between the Palm Springs area and Los Angeles is lighter late at night. Some motorists appreciate that and join the big rigs that travel the freeway well after dark.

Fatigue is a problem, however, especially for truckers who spend long hours on the road. Like every other driver, they are susceptible to the danger related to lulls in the circadian rhythm.

What it is

The body’s wake-sleep cycle is the circadian rhythm. It is our internal clock responsible for controlling the flow of alertness throughout each day and night. The body is naturally drowsy between the hours of 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and again from midnight to 6 a.m. If a driver has not had sufficient sleep heading into one of these natural lulls, fatigue and natural drowsiness may combine to impair judgment and reduce response time, which increases the odds of a crash.

A link to sleep inertia

Drivers may experience sleep inertia after waking, especially in the first hour of driving. For example, a driver may sleep for a few hours in his sleeper berth. He may start to drive soon after waking, say, at around midnight before heading out on a fairly quiet and sparsely populated I-10, bound for L.A. However, sleep inertia impairs some tasks associated with vigilance, short-term memory, cognitive functioning and reaction time. In addition, the driver is entering a long lull in the circadian rhythm, causing him to fight drowsiness and an almost overwhelming urge to return to sleep.

Accident causes

Truck-related crashes have many causes, including speeding, ill-advised lane changes, poor truck maintenance, overloading and unsecured cargo. Add to that fatigue, sleep inertia and disruption to the circadian rhythm and you have the makings for a potential car-truck crash on the Interstate.

Launching an investigation

If you are among the motorists who prefer the less-congested late-night driving opportunities on the freeway, you, too, are susceptible to a lull in your circadian rhythm. However, you may be the unfortunate victim of a truck-car crash. Was the circadian rhythm involved? Was the trucker affected by sleep inertia? Your legal team will launch an investigation to determine the cause of the accident that resulted in your injuries, identify the negligent parties and work to secure a full and fair financial settlement on your behalf.

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