In today’s busy and hurried world, getting enough quality sleep may seem like a dream. But driving while drowsy affects a driver’s brain similarly to driving drunk. Reduced reaction time and impaired judgment place other drivers at risk for serious harm. If you’ve been seriously injured by a drowsy driver, contact a car accident lawyer can help you explore your options. While each case is different, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
How Driver Fatigue Causes Accidents
Too many drivers underestimate how much a lack of sleep affects their ability to drive safely. Thoughts of catching up on sleep later do little to prevent a person from falling asleep now. A driver on their way to a vacation destination may even risk driving for 24 hours without stopping. Their goal of saving time severely impairs them behind the wheel.
Drivers who go a full 24 hours without sleep are as impaired as drunk drivers with a 0.10 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. With a legal limit of 0.08 in most states, this indicates the very real danger of a long drive with no rest.
Driver fatigue can cause accidents in the following ways:
- High-speed crashes: While drifting off to sleep can occur at any speed, when a driver falls asleep while driving at a high-speed, a resulting collision can result in serious injuries or death.
- No time to react: Drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel cannot brake or swerve to avoid objects in front of them.
- Head-on: Drifting off behind the wheel and into another lane places drivers at risk for a head-on collision.
- Overcorrecting: Other drivers may use their horns to alert and awaken a sleeping driver. Startled awake, the driver may then overcorrect or jerk the wheel in reaction to the noise. On a busy highway, sudden movements like this can result in a multi-car crash.
Not all drivers who experience fatigue actually fall asleep behind the wheel. Driving while drowsy places drivers at twice the risk of making performance errors than non-drowsy drivers, even if they stay awake. All it takes to change your life forever is a fatigued driver crashing into you on the road, as you cross the street, or while riding your bicycle.
Common Injuries Caused by Driver Fatigue
Everyone needs sleep to function. When a fatigued driver ignores their body’s need for rest, their collision with you can result in serious injuries. The average vehicle weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, and in a collision the force of that weight transfers into your car and body. Here are just a few of the common injuries victims suffer when a tired driver crashes into them:
Broken bones – Broken bones are painful and can make performing simple tasks impossible while they heal. A violent crash can result in more than one broken bone, sometimes requiring multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy. The recovery process is slow and may involve casts or other medical devices to limit your mobility.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – A bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury, can result in a traumatic brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that a TBI can range from mild to severe. The more severe the injury, the worse the impact on basic functions, including:
- Cognitive function: Thinking and memory.
- Motor function: Coordination and balance.
- Sensation: Hearing, vision, taste, and touch.
- Behavior and emotions: Anger and depression.
A loved one with a severe TBI may never again be the person you once knew. Their need for personal and medical care can costs thousands, if not millions, of dollars over their lifetime.
Spinal cord injury – spinal cord injuries can be especially devastating for victims and their families. Spinal cord injuries are categorized as either complete or incomplete. With a complete injury, there is no movement or sensation below the point of injury. Patients with an incomplete injury experience some sensation and limited movement below the point of injury.
The result is generally some form of paralysis, often making a power chair, home modifications, and special transportation essential. Replacing medical equipment, accessible vehicles, and power chairs throughout someone’s lifetime is costly. The estimated cost of a spinal cord injury is in the millions of dollars.
Internal injuries – Even if you feel fine immediately following an accident, accept medical attention. Internal injuries such as internal bleeding or organ damage aren’t easy to detect right away. Only a trained medical professional and hospital tests can determine if you have internal injuries. Never underestimate the impact of a violent collision on your body. Be safe rather than sorry and seek medical attention right away.
Burns – A drowsy truck driver hauling flammable liquids can place you at risk of serious burns. If the cargo tank spills during a rollover or other type of collision, the possibility for fire or an explosion is very real.
Burn injuries typically require treatment at a burn center. Depending upon the severity of your burn, you may require plastic surgery and skin grafts. Burn injuries can also result in emotional and psychological trauma due to scarring and limited mobility. Joining a support group can help you recover with the support of other burn victims.
A drowsy or fatigued driver can change your life forever. You or your passengers may experience one or more of these serious injuries. The lasting impacts may affect your career and your relationships.
The inability to return to a job you love or to participate in activities you once enjoyed can lead to depression. Drivers who don’t care about the safety of those with whom they share the road are negligent. If you’ve experienced a serious, life-changing accident because of another driver’s choice to get on the road fatigued, discuss your case with a personal injury attorney.
Drivers Most at Risk for Driving Drowsy
Anyone who operates a motor vehicle is at risk for drowsy driving. Sleep is essential for our daily lives and a lack of rest is downright dangerous. A few examples of drivers most at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel include:
Commercial drivers – Drivers of commercial vehicles including tractor-trailers, buses, and tow truck drivers often spend long hours on the road. The lack of opportunity to move around along with the monotony of the road can lead to driver fatigue.
Government regulations limit how many hours a truck driver can drive at one time. Mandatory rest periods only help if the driver can sleep during time off the road. While the average person requires seven to eight hours of sleep per night to function fully, most truck drivers average less than five hours per night.
Drivers who work a night shift – Adjusting to different work schedules can interrupt a person’s normal sleep habits. For drivers who have difficulty sleeping during the day, the end of a night shift generally leaves them exhausted. A commute home can turn deadly if a driver drifts off to sleep and into the opposite lane.
Drivers with an undiagnosed sleep disorder – Many drivers get behind the wheel unaware they have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy increase the risk of daytime sleepiness.
Narcolepsy is especially dangerous due to so-called “sleep attacks.” For drivers who suffer from insomnia, their inability to fall or stay asleep at night results in functional impairment due to extreme fatigue. Any undiagnosed sleep disorder or other medical issue places other drivers in harm’s way.
Drivers taking medications that make them sleepy – Certain prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs come with warning labels about driving while taking the medication. Many drivers ignore the warnings thinking a cup of coffee can help them to stay alert. Risking a drive to the store or work while drowsy from medication is reckless behavior.
Drunk drivers – Along with impairing a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle, alcohol also magnifies the effects of drowsiness. A drowsy, drunk driver is even more impaired, and can easily fall asleep, increasing the risk that they will cause a crash.
Any driver who chooses to delay rest for any reason is a danger behind the wheel. No amount of caffeine, loud music, or fresh air can keep a drowsy driver awake or alert enough to be safe behind the wheel.
Fatigued Drivers Are Dangerous
Everyone gets tired at some point during the day. When a driver knows they are sleepy but chooses to get behind the wheel anyway, that’s reckless behavior. Trying to trick themselves into staying awake doesn’t work—the body can only fight sleep for so long.
When a driver does drift off to sleep, they rarely remember what happened. This is why law enforcement often has a difficult time listing fatigue as an accident’s primary cause. Unless the driver admits to feeling drowsy before the crash, chances are fatigue won’t make it into the accident report.
The true number of accidents involving drowsy and fatigued drivers may never be known. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur each year— more than three times the police-reported number. The study also found that 109,000 of those crashes resulted in injury and more than 6,000 resulted in fatalities. Researchers associated with the study estimate that fatalities from drowsy driving crashes are 350 percent greater than reported.
The CDC recently shared a survey of approximately 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia, which found the following:
- 4 percent admitted to having fallen asleep while behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days.
- Individuals who slept less than 6 hours a day or individuals who snored were more likely to report falling asleep at the wheel.
New technologies aim to reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue. A drowsiness alert system gauges how many times a driver departs from the center of their lane over a period of time. The system uses a variety of alerts including seat vibrations, audio alerts, and dashboard visuals to remind you to take a break. Until this new technology is available in all vehicles, tired drivers remain a risk to others.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help
A drowsy driver can crash into you at any time—when you are walking, riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or driving to work. Your injuries can cause you and your loved ones physical, emotional, and financial stress. A personal injury attorney can help by reviewing the details of your case. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation. Upon learning about the details and reviewing relevant evidence, an experienced personal injury attorney can describe your best options for moving forward.
Representatives from insurance companies may offer you a settlement soon after the accident. The settlement may seem like a lot of money but it is most likely a low offer. Insurance companies look out for themselves and not for victims. Ensure that you can attend to your future medical needs by not speaking with insurance representatives yourself and contacting an attorney instead.
Placing your case in the capable hands of a personal injury attorney can reduce your stress. An attorney can conduct negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf so that you can concentrate on your health. Should your attorney be unable to reach a fair settlement through negotiations, then a trial is possible.
Drowsy driving is negligence that puts others at risk for serious harm. Be proactive in seeking justice and demand accountability if you have been injured by a drowsy driver.
Time is of the essence, so don’t delay. The sooner you schedule a free evaluation with a personal injury attorney, the better for your case. A personal injury claim takes time. Filing your claim before the statute of limitations expires is imperative.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve. If you’ve been seriously injured due to no fault of your own and you want justice, consider securing the services of a personal injury attorney. Having the right legal representation on your side can make all the difference for your financial future.
Drowsy and fatigued drivers surround you as you drive. No matter how defensively you drive, there’s no avoiding a sudden crash when another driver falls asleep. If this is something that happened to you, contact and discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney today.
Call (877) 999-9999 or email Boohoff Law today – available 24/7