Sooner or later, most drivers will experience feeling drowsy while driving. You might have gotten little to no sleep. You might have put in a long day at work. You might even have taken prescription medication that makes you drowsy as a side-effect.
No matter how it happened, drowsy driving can be very dangerous. Drowsy driving itself is not illegal, but it could lead to driving that violates traffic laws, which could cause a car accident.
When you are drowsy while driving, you become inattentive and less alert. This could lead to you drifting out of your traffic lane, following too closely to other drivers, or even running a red light or stop sign.
When drowsy driving causes an accident, the drowsy driver is liable for damages and injuries.
Drowsy Driving Statistics in Pennsylvania
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 697 deaths were caused by drowsy driving car accidents in 2019. It is important to note that many drowsy driving accidents go unreported.
Statistics show that drowsy driving fatalities are among the lowest in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). In 2020, there were 11 deaths caused by drowsy drivers. Out of those deaths, only one percent accounted for all traffic-related fatalities in Pennsylvania that year.
What Makes Drowsy Driving so Dangerous?
Drowsy driving makes it virtually impossible to focus on driving safely. It might even cause you to exceed the speed limit so that you can get to your destination faster to take a nap or go to bed.
If you have ever felt yourself nodding off while driving, you know how difficult it can be to drive safely while trying to stay awake and alert. Drowsy driving could cause you to:
- Drift out of your traffic lane.
- Rear-end a stopped vehicle.
- Run a red light or stop sign.
- Miss a turn or an exit.
- Have trouble maintaining a steady and safe speed.
Drowsy driving could cause many other issues while driving. Ultimately, it is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated and just as disorienting. Driving while drowsy or fatigued slows your reaction times and affects your judgment.
- Drowsy drivers take longer to process road conditions and can easily misjudge a turn or similar traffic maneuver.
- Drowsy driving can cause your mind to focus on trying to stay awake instead of paying attention to the road.
- You might even begin to microsleep for a few seconds at a time with your eyes open.
Although no one intends to drive while drowsy, the consequences can be costly. An accident is a strong possibility when drowsy driving and could result in serious injuries or death to one or more people.
Factors that Could Lead to Drowsy Driving
Many conditions could cause you to feel drowsy while driving. The conditions often occur naturally and do not reflect on your general level of personal responsibility.
- Sleep disorders.
- Medical conditions.
- Prescription medications that may cause drowsiness.
- Working long hours while performing duties that are physically and mentally exhausting.
Many factors could contribute to causing you to drive while drowsy. But those factors would not negate your liability if you caused an accident due to your drowsy condition.
What Are the Signs of Drowsy Driving?
You might set out on a relatively long drive feeling alert and focused. However, the time you spend behind the wheel and looking at the roadway for hours at a time could lead to drowsiness. Or maybe you just feel tired due to fatigue or a lack of quality sleep. No matter the cause, the effect will make you feel tired.
- Beginning to feel sleepiness, like excessive yawning or your eyes trying to close despite the fact that you are driving a car.
- You might feel like you are drifting off into sleep, which could cause you to drift across lanes.
- Continually running across the rumble strips near the shoulder or that sometimes separate traffic lanes.
When you realize that you are driving while drowsy, the best thing to do is to switch drivers, or pull over and take a short nap. Even a half-hour or so of sleep could help to revive you enough to drive safely to your destination.
How to Prevent Becoming Drowsy While Driving?
You should have a good idea of the amount of driving that you need to do on a particular day. You also should have a good idea of when you will need to start driving and for how long.
- Get a good night of sleep.
- Plan on making rest stops to help you to regain your energy for the next leg of the drive.
- If you have a co-driver, plan on switching drivers frequently, once every hour or every other hour.
- Avoid driving during peak drowsy times: early morning, early afternoon, and midnight.
- Eat light, avoid alcohol, and do not take medication that could make you feel drowsy.
- Drink coffee to stay awake without the potential physical crash that can accompany stronger stimulants.
Potential Claims Against Drowsy Drivers
If a drowsy driver causes an accident with your vehicle, that driver is liable for your damages. The insurer of the vehicle driven by the drowsy driver should pay up to policy limits for damage to your vehicle and other property. The insurer also should pay for your bodily injuries up to policy limits.
Any medical insurance that you have should help to pay for any emergency medical treatment and an ambulance ride to the emergency room if needed. If your auto insurance includes underinsured motorist coverage, that could apply if the costs exceed the other motorist’s policy limits.
Your claims might include the cost of hospitalization, surgical procedures, and follow-up treatment. Prescription medication and physical therapy also would be among the many medical costs for which you could file claims.
If you were unable to work for a period of time, you would be owed for lost earnings. You also could claim pain and suffering. A loss of consortium might apply if you suffer a disability or disfigurement.
An experienced car accident lawyer could help you to file claims that are relative to your case. The attorney also could help you to gather evidence that helps to prove your claims to an insurer or in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Hold Drowsy Drivers Accountable for Accidents
If you have injuries because of a drowsy driver, our experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. You can contact us online or callus at 215-569-8488 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania, as well as Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.