If you watch the news or go online, you will see hundreds of stories where drivers cause accidents after falling asleep at the wheel. Driver fatigue is dangerous, and in many cases, it takes the lives of innocent victims. If you or a loved one has been injured by a fatigued or drowsy driver, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Experienced car accident attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to.
Why Driver Fatigue Is so Dangerous
We all regularly experience fatigue. Your eyes get heavy, your body gets weak, and it takes a little more effort to concentrate. When experiencing fatigue, the best thing you can do is get some rest, avoid strenuous activity, and most of all, stay off the road.
Drowsy driving can be extremely dangerous. The National Sleep Foundation reports the impairment caused by drowsiness is similar to the impairment associated with drunk driving.
Six children were injured recently when a North Carolina woman allegedly veered off the side of the road after falling asleep at the wheel. Just a few weeks earlier, a man allegedly slammed into an Eagle Rock, California home after he, too, fell asleep while driving. And just recently, a six-year-old boy died after a 38-year-old man allegedly veered into the path of the vehicle the boy was occupying after the man fell asleep at the wheel.
How does fatigue affect the body? Consider the following:
- After 18 hours with no sleep, a person may drive as if they had a blood-alcohol level of 0.05. In South Carolina, the legal blood-alcohol limit is 0.08.
- After 24-hours awake, it’s as if you have a blood-alcohol limit of 0.10.
- According to the CDC, drowsy driving slows reaction time and affects your ability to pay attention to the road.
- The National Safety Council reports you are three times more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident if you are fatigued.
Although the dangers associated with driving while fatigued are clear, drowsy driving happens more often than one would like to believe. The CDC reports that one in 25 drivers have reported falling asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days. In just one recent year, 795 people died as the result of a drowsy driver. To ensure your own safety and the safety of others, do your part. If you feel tired, don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Know your limits. If you become drowsy while you are driving, pull over somewhere safe until you are safe to drive.
Who’s at Risk for Driver Fatigue
Some people are more at risk of drowsy driving than others. Certain individuals should take extra precautions to recognize when they are too tired to drive. In addition, they should have a plan for obtaining rest when they are on the road and become fatigued.
Some individuals at higher risk of drowsy driving include:
- Truck drivers: Truck drivers work long hours, often more than 10 in a row. While federal regulations limit the number of consecutive hours a driver can be on the road, these rules are not always scrupulously followed. In addition, truck drivers often have to sleep on the road, which may disrupt their quality of sleep. Even if they are seemingly resting for an appropriate amount of time, the decreased quality of sleep may leave truck drivers fatigued.
- Shift workers: As humans, our bodies prefer to maintain a schedule. For most of us, this means staying awake during the daylight hours and sleeping at night. But shift workers often must night rotations. Night shift requires workers to work through the night hours and sleep during the day. Adjusting to an opposite schedule can cause difficulties obtaining adequate sleep.
- People with underlying health conditions: According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men suffer from sleep apnea. Yet, up to 80 percent of afflicted individuals are unaware they are suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea interferes with a person’s quality of sleep and leaves them feeling fatigued even after a good night’s rest. Decreased quality of sleep can lead to problems with memory, concentration, and staying awake. Other health conditions that may cause chronic fatigue include cancer, brain injuries, and depression.
- People on certain medications: Some medications are known to cause drowsiness as a side effect, including antihistamines, painkillers, and some antidepressants. Never drive on medications that are known to cause drowsiness. Always evaluate how a new medication will affect you before you attempt to drive after taking it.
Who’s at Fault After an Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue?
In most cases, a drowsy driver will be 100 percent liable for damages and losses resulting from an accident they caused. However, in some cases, more than one party shares financial responsibility for accident-related expenses.
For example, long-haul trucker employers may encourage or require them to work extended hours. Not only is it illegal to force drivers to drive beyond the hours permitted by federal regulations, it is also extremely dangerous. If an employer requires the driver to work beyond the legal limit, the employer may hold some or all legal responsibility for an accident caused by a drowsy employee.
If you suspect the other driver fell asleep or was fatigued at the time of the accident, talk to an attorney. An experienced car accident attorney can help victims gather evidence, including the driver’s medical records to help strengthen their claim.
How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Whenever you sustain an injury because of another’s negligence, it’s important to have someone by your side that you can trust. Medical bills and lost time off of work can have a serious impact on your personal finances. After an accident, victims need to focus on their physical recovery. The law allows accident victims to pursue financial damages after an injury caused by someone else.
An experienced car accident attorney can work with the other driver’s insurance to help ensure victims receive fair and just settlements. If you have questions or need help moving forward, don’t wait. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer such as those at Hughey Law Firm to protect your legal rights.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464