A pending bill aimed at fighting the Zika virus could increase the number of fatigued drivers on the road, according to Huffington Post.

If the complete bill is passed, the 2017 House Transportation funding bill will deny the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration adequate funds to enforce the 2013 hours of service provision that requires truck drivers take a rest between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on consecutive days, reported Transport Topics.

In addition to the mandatory rest period, the July 2013 hours of service provision capped a truckers working hours at 70 per week and ensured they would receive two consecutive nights off. However a 2014 spending bill prevented the provisions from being enforced, according to Huffington Post.

In May 2016, the Senate passed a measure that would allow truckers 73 hours of driving per week, plus an addition 8.5 hours of related work as part of a massive spending measure to fund transportation projects as well as military construction projects, veterans administration projects and Zika prevention. Huffington suggested that because of the significance the Zika prevention, the bill was likely to be passed.

The World Health Organization warns that Zika is “spreading explosively” in the North and South American continents. This virus, mainly spread by mosquitos, can cause birth defects in babies born to pregnant women infected by the virus, according to WebMD.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of July 13, 2016 there have been 1,305 cases of travel-associated cases of Zika virus in the United States.

Transportation Topics reported that in addition to blocking the hours of service provision, the 2017 Transportation funding bill would also prevent California and other states from enacting laws to require companies to schedule meal and rest breakers for all drivers. This clause is meant to block a California law signed in 2011 requiring employers to provide one “duty-free” 30 minute break to all employees who work more than five hours a day and two for employees who work more than 10 hours.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted the hours of service provision, which took effect on July 1, 2013 to improve safety for the public by reducing driver fatigue, also commonly known as drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving can lead to devastating truck accidents. In fact, New York Times reported driver fatigue as a major cause in the June 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracey Morgan and killed his friend, James McNair.  The limousine van carrying Morgan and McNair was struck by a Walmart truck driver who had been awake for more than 28 hours.

The CDC suggests that drowsy driving may be responsible for up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year.  The agency also reported that commercial drivers including those who operate tractor trailers, tow trucks and buses are more likely to drive drowsy.

Failure to take precautions to thwart the Zika virus can deadly, but so can failure to take action to prevent truck accidents caused by drowsy driving.

Legal Lookout

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