Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers Hold Fatigued Drivers Responsible for Accidents Causing Injuries
Driver Exhaustion Puts Your Life and Well-Being at Risk on the Road
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 100,000 police-reported drowsy driving car accidents result in nearly 800 fatalities and approximately 50,000 injuries every year. However, the actual number may be much higher, as it is difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. That is more than three times the police-reported number. The same survey found that 109,000 of those drowsy driving crashes result in an injury, and about 6,400 of them are fatal. The researchers suggest that drowsy driving fatalities are more than 350 percent greater than reported.
It is difficult to gauge exact numbers because many drowsy driving crashes are not recorded, and clues are not always identifiable. One thing is abundantly clear: drowsy driving kills.
The typical American lifestyle does not discourage drowsy driving. Between work, home, commuting, social lives, and children, many people are fatigued and getting behind the wheel of a car. It just takes one restless night of sleep to cause a deadly accident.
Fatigued Driving Risk Factors
While every accident is unique, several factors are commonly associated with drowsy driving accidents:
- Number of occupants: Drowsy driving often involves a single driver with no passengers running off the road at high speed with no evidence of braking. Cars will usually roll over in ditches, hit stationary objects, such as bridge abutments, or wrap around poles or trees. Even though there may be one driver, many other injured occupants can be injured in other vehicles.
- Location: Drowsy driving accidents frequently occur on rural roads and highways. This makes sense, given the lack of noise and lighting on many roadways. Drowsy driving can happen anywhere, however.
- Age: All age groups can experience driver fatigue, but it is common in adults aged 21 to 29 and 46 to 64 years old. Teen drivers are also involved in many drowsy driving accidents.
- Young and inexperienced drivers: Younger people have less time on the road and underdeveloped driving skills. Younger drivers are also more likely to drive later in the day, making them more susceptible to drowsiness.
- Shift workers: Shift workers and those whose shifts are over 12 hours are typically exhausted when they finally get off work. A long drive home can be dangerous. Same for people who work rotating day and night shifts. It is difficult for the body to adjust to new sleep and work times, making them more prone to driver fatigue.
- Commercial drivers: Truck drivers often have extended hours and strict deadlines. They may choose to forego sleep to make their deliveries or pick-ups on time. The result could be fatal.
- Business travelers: Salespeople and others who routinely travel by car for business are particularly susceptible to driver fatigue. They may keep irregular driving hours, cross time zones, and not sleep well in hotels, making for a tired driver.
- Sleep disorders: Some people have medical conditions that naturally make them sleepy. Others may suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea that inhibits a whole night of good sleep. Anyone with a disorder should always think twice about their ability to stay alert while driving.
- Time of day: Drowsy driving accidents occur most frequently between midnight and 6:00 a.m. or late afternoon. These times are when people experience dips in their circadian rhythm, the internal clock regulating sleep.
Drowsy driving can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Impact of Driver Fatigue
Driving while fatigued is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. Consider the following attributes of a typical drowsy driver:
- Non-existent reaction time.
- Decreased ability to maintain attention.
- Lessened awareness of hazards.
- Reduced ability to make good driving decisions.
- Impaired ability to judge distances and speeds.
Driving after going without sleep for 20 hours is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent, which is the U.S. legal limit. Research shows you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if fatigued.
Drivers may not even realize they are fatigued, as many feel that way daily. Some drivers will also experience microsleep. This is when they fall asleep for four or five seconds while driving. At highway speeds, vehicles can travel the length of a football field in that short period of time.
What Are Signs of Driver Fatigue?
If you experience any of the following symptoms while driving, you may be experiencing driver fatigue. Consider stopping for the night or a power nap. Beware of others on the road with these signs, too. Pull away from them as soon as possible, and if their driving is endangering others, call 911 and report them. Signs of driver fatigue include:
- Frequent yawning.
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open.
- Blinking, rubbing, and itching eyes.
- Inability to focus.
- Nodding off.
- Having trouble keeping your head up.
- Feeling as if you are in a trance-like state, especially on long stretches of highway.
- Inability to remember driving the last few miles.
- Missing road signs or turns.
- Difficulty maintaining your speed.
- Drifting out of your lane.
- Driving onto the shoulder.
- Feelings of aggression, impatience, and irritability.
What Are the Causes of Drowsy Driving?
While the pace of everyday life is enough to make anyone feel tired, certain behaviors can add to a driver’s fatigue:
- Medications: Many people do not realize that even over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness. Always check the labels before taking medication and driving. Prescription medications, too, can cause extreme sleepiness. You should review the side effects and ensure the drug does not cause drowsiness.
- Driving at odd times: Some people want to make the best time they can on their road trip. They may get up extra early or in the middle of the night to start or drive well into the evening and night; none of these are wise. Anytime a person drives at an odd time of the day, they risk drowsiness.
- Driving without a break: Some people are intent on getting to their destination as quickly as possible. They will drive, ignoring how their body and mind feel, but this is dangerous. Everyone should take a break from driving every few hours. A quick refresh is an excellent way to keep yourself awake and aware. If needed, take a 20-minute nap at a rest stop.
How Can I Avoid Driver Fatigue?
Some ways you can avoid driver fatigue include:
- Getting adequate sleep each night, seven to eight hours, is the only way to ensure you will not be too tired to drive safely.
- Get a good night of sleep before starting a long road trip.
- Plan the trip for times that do not call for early-morning or late-night driving.
- Avoid any alcohol before driving. It could make you even more tired and increase sleepiness and impairment.
- Check both over-the-counter and prescription medications for side effects. If they can make you drowsy, either do not take them or take them and wait until later to drive.
- Avoid driving during peak sleepiness times: midnight to 6:00 a.m. and late afternoon.
- Stay vigilant while driving for signs of drowsiness: pull over and nap or stop for the night.
- Take a power nap if drowsy while driving. Find a safe place, such as a rest stop or a well-lit parking lot, to sleep for 20 minutes.
- Seek help. If you have trouble getting a whole night of rest, talk with your doctor.
- Organize a carpool. If you feel drowsy on your commute to and from work, consider carpooling or driving with a friend or spouse.
- Add some stimuli. Open a window or blast the A/C. The sound and feel of the air will help keep you awake if you feel yourself starting to nod off, but know this is not a long-term solution.
- Keep yourself entertained. Before hitting the road, arrange to play audiobooks, podcasts, or your favorite music. Turn up the volume.
- Always use your seat belt. Seat belt use is proven to save lives. Always wear yours and require your passengers to wear theirs.
- Know that short-term interventions are just that. Coffee and energy drinks may give you an initial jolt of energy, but they are not effective long term.
- Engage your car’s safety features, such as drowsiness alerts and lane-departure warnings. These features are designed to keep drivers awake and aware.
Employers with long-shift, overnight, and rotating-shift workers should help them with their safety. Offer information and health programs to assist them with getting enough sleep.
Universities and schools can also help younger people understand the dangers of drowsy driving. Awareness campaigns and informational programs can draw attention to the risks.
Are There Laws Against Drowsy Driving?
Under Pennsylvania law, drowsy driving is reckless driving, and a person could be cited for it in an accident. Although, crash investigators often find it difficult to prove that a person was driving drowsy or was asleep at the wheel. Many states track drowsy driving statistics carefully and try to educate drivers on the dangers of drowsy driving through public awareness campaigns.
As far as car insurance, drivers can receive a ticket when drowsy driving is treated like reckless driving, affecting car insurance premiums. The citation will appear on their driving record when they renew or get a new car insurance policy. Accidents caused by drowsy driving can also affect rates significantly.
What Should I Do After a Drowsy Driving Accident?
No matter how minor or severe the accident, there are steps you should take:
- Call 911 to summon medical help and ensure police response and an official police report.
- Always seek and accept medical help on the scene, even if you do not feel the injuries are severe. Some injuries take a while to surface. Get medical attention afterward whenever new symptoms arise, even weeks or months later.
- Take pictures and videos of the scene: vehicle damage, strewn parts, the position of the vehicles, location of the accident, weather conditions, road conditions, and injuries.
- Talk to witnesses. Get their statements, names, and contact information as quickly as possible.
- Keep thorough records of injuries and medical bills. Explain thoroughly and in detail to your doctor about what hurts and what happened. Keep records of medical bills, insurance payments, out-of-pocket payments, and other costs related to your injuries.
- Write down your memories. Note everything you can about what occurred in the accident and after the accident, including any discussion with your employer, insurance companies, or others.
- Follow your doctor’s orders. Follow through on recommended therapies, medications, and other activities prescribed.
- Do not talk to, agree to, or sign anything with an insurance company, even your own. Insurers are in the business of minimizing their losses, not yours.
- Hire a car accident lawyer if you have been injured. You need an experienced lawyer to negotiate, build a solid case, and take it to court if required.
The consequences of drowsy driving can be severe. You could be left with significant injuries that require months or even years of medical care. You could also suffer from long-lasting cognitive or physical impairments that can impact your work, daily life, and physical health. Talk with your lawyer to learn about your legal options.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Clients Who Have Been Injured by Drowsy Drivers
If you have been hurt in a drowsy driving accident, speak with one of our seasoned Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.