Car Driver Fatigue: What To Do When Drowsy Driving Injures You
September 02, 2021
If you have been in an accident and suffered injuries due to a fatigued driver, that driver might be liable for your injury-related losses. Driver fatigue is not unlike drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs, as it impairs a person’s driving ability in similar ways.
In this day and age, many people are overworked and do not get enough rest. If someone who is overly tired gets behind the wheel, they might not think they are dangerous – until they fall asleep at the wheel and cause a serious crash and injuries. Reports indicate that at least 91,000 crashes in a recent year involved drowsy driving, resulting in about 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities. This is a serious problem on our roads today.
If you believe that a fatigued driver injured you, consult with a car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Fatigue In The U.S.
A survey of the U.S. population by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that around thirty-seven percent of workers get less than the recommended amount of sleep.
- Work long overtime shifts
- Work night shifts
- Work multiple jobs
- Have sleep disorders
- Have stress and other factors that keep them awake
Some people wear tiredness as a badge of honor that they can take on so much in their lives. However, once someone gets behind the wheel when overtired, they might physiologically be unable to responsibly operate their vehicle. This can lead to accidents and injuries to others.
There is no amount of experience, motivation, or even professionalism that can overcome your body’s natural need to sleep. When drivers get on the road while fatigued, they can injure anyone they come across.
How Driver Fatigue Impacts Safety
Fatigue can lessen our ability to engage in regular, everyday activities in a safe manner.
Drowsiness can degrade our:
- Focus and attention
- Decision-making and judgment
- Reaction time
When you are driving, you need all of the above to maintain control of your vehicle and ensure that you follow all of the rules of the road. When a driver has any impairments regarding these faculties, they can make errors that are similar to any other type of impaired driving.
1. Drowsy Driving Vs. Drunk Driving
Driving while fatigued and driving while drunk are clearly not the same. However, both behaviors present comparable levels of impairment. Both impact alertness, judgment, and reaction times, and both result in crashes as a result.
After 18 hours without sleep, a person has impairments regarding coordination, reaction time, multitasking abilities, and vigilance comparable to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. 20 hours without sleep is similar to a BAC of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for drunk driving; 24 hours without sleep can be equivalent to a 0.10 percent BAC.
Alcohol impairment can make drivers more impulsive and more likely to speed or violate the law. In contrast, drowsiness usually makes a driver less capable of paying proper attention but does not create the same impulsiveness. Still, it is important to remember that drowsy driving is still impaired driving, and those who cause accidents and injuries should be accountable for the harm that results.
2. Drowsy Driving Versus Distracted Driving
Distracted driving has become a public safety issue across the United States despite many laws in place to curb distractions such as texting and driving. When a driver is distracted, their focus is not on the road or the act of driving. The same thing can happen when a driver is fatigued.
Fatigue can cause a driver to daydream or blur their focus on the road. Many drowsy drivers report not remembering the previous mile or so on a highway, which means they were not paying attention. This can certainly increase the chance of accidents, just as distracted driving does.
While many drivers might never imagine getting behind the wheel after drinking or texting while driving, they might not think twice about driving while they are fatigued. This is just another dangerous driving activity that can lead to injuries and liability.
Causes Of Fatigued Driving
There are many reasons why drivers might be fatigued to the point where they make harmful mistakes on the road. Studies show that even having six hours of sleep a night doubles the risk of an accident compared to drivers with eight hours. Drivers with five hours of sleep double their risk of a crash yet again.
Some drivers might not know they are particularly fatigued, as they might think they are capable of powering through tiredness to go about their days. However, drivers cannot always out-will the physiological effects of fatigue.
1. Small Children
Parents with infants, toddlers, or other small children know the reality of sleep deprivation. Parents might sleep in small spurts or might hardly sleep at all – sometimes for multiple nights in a row. Such parents often return to work shortly after a child is born, usually within 12 weeks, and they have to take their child to daycare, commute to work, and run other errands each day. This puts them at grave risk of causing a collision.
2. Sleep Disorders
Sleep is a biological process, and many factors have to be in place for a person to get proper sleep.
Many conditions or environmental issues can impact sleep, including various sleep disorders:
- Insomnia – This is the most common disorder regarding sleep, and it makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.
- Hypersomnia or narcolepsy – These disorders hinder the ability to stay awake during the day. People might nod off or completely fall asleep without warning.
- Sleep apnea – This is a respiratory disorder that causes a person to stop breathing many times while asleep. The body wakes a person up (often without them knowing) to regain breathing abilities, which is extremely disruptive to proper sleep and can cause extreme fatigue during the day.
Doctors have identified more than 80 sleep disorders, and these are only the most common ones that lead to fatigued driving. Such disorders are treatable, but too many people fail to get a diagnosis or keep up with treatment, increasing their risks of drowsy driving accidents.
Around 13 million people reported having more than one job in recent years, and more and more people are working longer and longer hours to make ends meet. The more hours you spend working, the fewer hours you have to sleep in many situations. People with multiple jobs still need to eat, engage in hygiene, spend time with their families, and more, and they might sacrifice sleep to fit everything in.
Working multiple jobs is a particular problem when it comes to rideshare drivers. Passengers trust Uber and Lyft drivers to get them to their destinations safely, and they might not realize that a rideshare driver is working dangerously long hours.
Uber and Lyft put time limits on driving eligibility, and in Florida, drivers must take a six-hour break after being logged on the app for 12 hours. 12 hours is still a long shift, and drivers can easily become tired in that timeframe.
Additionally, many people use rideshare as a second source of income, or they might drive for more than one rideshare company.
- A person works an eight-hour shift at another job, then drives for ten hours for Uber, resulting in an 18-hour workday with no sleep.
- A person signs up with both Uber and Lyft, trading off between the two so they can drive nearly around the clock.
Both of these scenarios put passengers – and those in other vehicles – at serious risk of injuries.
No matter what the cause of fatigued driving might be, it does not change the fact that it can result in serious injuries to others. If a drowsy driver crashed and you suffered injuries, always have a car accident lawyer review your rights to compensation for your losses.
Fatigue And Commercial Drivers
When commercial drivers take the wheel of large semi-trucks, buses, or other commercial vehicles, they have a huge responsibility. Driving long shifts regularly can cause fatigue, and federal regulations limit the amount of time a commercial driver can be on the road to try to curb drowsy driving.
Unfortunately, there is also an incentive for drivers and trucking companies to make as many deliveries as possible in short times. Too often, truck drivers exceed the hours-of-service restrictions and drive much longer than they should. Even if a driver is within the limitations, they still might be tired due to long driving shifts the day before, less than ideal sleeping arrangements, or sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
If you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, it is important to investigate whether the driver was experiencing fatigue. There might be signs of loss of control of the truck, cameras that show the driver falling asleep, records that show hours-of-service violations, and other evidence. It is important to have the right accident lawyer handling this process and protecting your rights.
If a truck driver fell asleep and caused your injuries, both the driver and the trucking company-employer should be liable for your losses.
These can include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
Proving these claims can be challenging, so you want the right truck accident attorney on your side.
How Fatigued Drivers Crash
There are many different ways that fatigued drivers can cause accidents, and each incident is different.
The following are some common drowsy driving accident scenarios:
- A tired driver loses focus and does not notice that traffic is stopping ahead of them. They cannot brake in time and crash into the back of another car, causing a chain-reaction crash.
- A driver closes their eyes briefly and departs from their intended lane to the right, sideswiping the car in the adjacent lane.
- A driver nods off and departs from their intended lane to the left, crossing over a double yellow line and causing a head-on collision with an oncoming car.
- A drowsy driver zones out, and when they come back to attention, they overcorrect, causing the car to spin out or roll over.
These are only some ways a drowsy driver can crash. Sometimes, a fatigued driver has a single-car accident, and they are the only one injured. In other situations, they can collide with other vehicles, run them off the road, or injure passengers in their own vehicles.
Holding Drowsy Drivers Liable For Your Losses
When a driver is unable to drive responsibly, they violate the rules of the road and are generally liable for any accidents they cause. Driver fatigue is no different. However, it is difficult – if not impossible – to show how tired a driver was if they will not admit it themselves.
Instead, you can use their erratic driving behaviors as proof of negligence. If a driver veered from their lane and collided with another car, you can use their failure to maintain a lane as evidence of negligence. If a driver failed to stop in time because they were inattentive due to fatigue, you can use the failure to stop to show negligence. This is legal maneuvering that you want a car accident lawyer to handle.
The first step in a no-fault insurance state is to file a claim against your PIP policy. However, if your injuries are severe, you can file a negligence-based claim against the drowsy driver. A skilled lawyer can advise you of the best options and processes to seek compensation for all of your injury-related losses.
Do Not Wait To Contact A Car Accident Attorney
After a crash, your priority is your physical well-being. Get all the medical diagnoses and treatments you need to stabilize your condition. Then, discuss your rights with a car accident lawyer. Do not delay in reaching out for a free case evaluation to start the injury claim process.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT