The dangers of impaired driving have long been known, and safety campaigns have raised public awareness about the risks of drunk and drugged driving. But another type of impaired driving does not always receive as much attention—drowsy driving. In 2015 alone, law enforcement and hospitals reported 90,000 fatigue-related crashes. In 2017, tired drivers were responsible for nearly 800 deaths.
Remaining alert and attentive behind the wheel is the responsibility of every driver, and fatigue can impair the ability to function safely. When a serious crash occurs because of a drowsy driver, accident victims and their families can suffer serious, long-term consequences. It’s important to know what to do if you’ve been hurt by a negligent driver who was drowsy at the wheel
What Is Drowsy Driving?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowsy or fatigued driving can occur due to a number of causes:
- Lack of sleep
- Certain medications
- Diagnosed or undiagnosed physical disorders
- Late-night work
- Alcohol use
Why Is Drowsy Driving Dangerous?
The CDC points out that drowsy driving is especially dangerous because the exact moment that drowsiness overtakes a driver is impossible to pinpoint, and even if he doesn’t fully fall asleep, risks still exist. Fatigue can make drivers:
- Less able to pay attention to the road
- Slower to react to conditions on the road
- Less able to make proper decisions
The National Security Council (NSC) reports that driving more than 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 percent—the legal limit for drunk driving. Additionally, tired drivers may not realize just how fatigued they are, so they continue to drive. In some cases, a driver may even experience a microsleep episode—a brief, involuntary span of inattention. In just those few seconds, a car can travel the length of a football field on the highway.
How Common Is Drowsy Driving?
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), drowsy driving is an issue that affects millions of Americans. Results from a recent study stated that 67 percent of Americans admit to driving while sleepy, and 37 percent say they have, in fact, fallen asleep behind the wheel in the year leading up to the study. The NSF also reports that 70 million American suffer from lack of sleep or a sleep disorder, and drowsiness causes about 16 percent of fatal car accidents every year.
How to Identify Fatigued Drivers on the Road
Unlike with alcohol and drugs, there is no definitive measure of how tired a person may be. This can make identifying a drowsy driver, both before and after an accident, difficult for other drivers and law enforcement. There are, however, some telltale signs that another driver is suffering from lack of sleep or fatigue, including:
- Frequent blinking or yawning
- Drifting from the marked lane
- Missing exit signs or other road markers
- Frequent head dropping
After an Accident With a Drowsy Driver
While Alabama does not have specific laws that address drowsy driving, drivers who put others at risk can be held accountable for the damage they cause. The actions they take (or fail to take) as a result of their fatigue are punishable by law, and accident victims have rights that can be protected.
If you suffered injuries in an accident and suspect the at-fault driver was negligent due to drowsy driving, contact a personal injury lawyer to help you take action to obtain the justice, care, and compensation you need to move forward. The legal team at Lattof & Lattof will examine the details of your accident and help you understand your rights more fully. We’ve helped many Alabama accident victims by investigating the accident, negotiating with insurance companies, and navigating the court system. Call our Mobile office, or fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch with a member of our team who can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.