Car Accidents Caused by Drowsy Driving
Sleep is an essential part of our lives and a crucial component of our overall health and well-being. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American adult should get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every single night. This sleep is vital to living a productive and healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, according to the CDC, more than a third of all adults are not getting the recommended sleep they need to function properly. Busy and harried lifestyles combined with various forms of easy entertainment keep many adults up surfing the Internet or binge-watching the latest Netflix series instead of catching up on their sleep. When adults don’t get the recommended hours of sleep, the effects can be cumulative.
While there are many causes of car accidents, drowsy drivers are responsible for numerous crashes every single day. In fact, drowsy driving is estimated to be a factor in at least 20% of all fatal crashes every single year. Even missing an hour of sleep can double your risk of getting into a crash. Missing two or three hours of sleep increases the risk of crashing by 400%, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Drivers who sleep for less than four hours at night are 11.5x more likely to crash than those who routinely get a good night’s sleep.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 fatalities in 2013 alone. However, these numbers are underestimated since many drowsy driving accidents are never reported.
Accidents Caused by Drowsy Driving
When a driver is fatigued, they may not react appropriately on the road. Drowsy drivers often exhibit a slow reaction time behind the wheel. They may speed without realizing it, behave erratically, or make no effort to brake or avoid an accident. These drivers often appear to “zone out” while driving and fail to recognize changes in traffic patterns, stop signs, or pedestrians or bicyclists on the road. Some even fall asleep behind the wheel, which can cause their vehicle to drift into oncoming traffic or off of the road completely.
Even one night of sleep loss or poor sleep can put you at risk for drowsy driving. However, some people have a higher risk of drowsy driving due to their lifestyle or medical conditions. Risk factors for drowsy driving include:
- Not sleeping enough
- Untreated sleep disorders
- Shift workers
- Medication side-effects
- Working too hard
- Drinking or drugs
Drowsy Driving vs. Drunk Driving
According to the American Sleep Foundation, half of all adult drivers in the United States admit to consistently driving while feeling drowsy. Even worse, more than 40% admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in their lives, and 20% admitted to falling asleep while driving this past year alone.
The dangers of drowsy driving are considerable. In fact, driving while drowsy is similar to driving drunk. When a driver is tired, their ability to remain attentive, their reaction time, and their awareness of hazards on the road all worsen—just like when they’ve been drinking.
Alcohol, even in small amounts, can exacerbate the symptoms of fatigue. A study from the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center discovered that when drivers only slept for four hours, a single beer had the same effect as six beers. Reports have indicated that a driver who has gone more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. In other words, drowsy drivers may be just as dangerous as drunk drivers.
Even though drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, there are no laws in place that make it illegal to drive while fatigued. There are no police campaigns or checkpoints. When a drunk driver is involved in an accident, they’re immediately arrested and charged with DUI. They may face jail time, hefty fines, and the loss of their driver’s license.
In comparison, when a drowsy driver causes an accident, there is often little police officers can do except to file a police report. It is up to the injured accident victim and their attorney to determine if the driver was indeed driving while feeling drowsy.
How are Drowsy Drivers Caught?
Drowsy drivers are not often caught until they’ve caused an accident. When an accident occurs, no test can determine accurately if a driver was driving fatigued at the time of the crash. Instead, catching a drowsy driver involves an intense investigation.
From the moment you are injured, your attorney will begin investigating your accident and the moments leading up to the crash. During the investigation, your lawyer will speak to eyewitnesses to get their testimony. Eyewitness information can begin to shed light on whether the driver was driving fatigued at the time of the crash. Some of the signs of drowsy driving that eyewitnesses may have noticed include:
- Driver yawning or nodding off
- Driving too closely to nearby cars
- Swerving or drifting into other lanes
- Veering onto the rumble strips on the shoulder
- Slowing down or speeding up erratically
In addition to eyewitness testimony, your lawyer may ask to review the driver’s prescription medications and medical history. Many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness and have very clear warning labels.
Your lawyer may also examine any video surveillance footage that was captured, as well as the police report. In some cases, the driver may even admit to being tired or falling asleep behind the wheel. Even when they don’t, however, their statements may offer clues as to what caused the crash. A simple statement, such as “I don’t remember” or “I can’t remember the last couple of minutes before the crash,” could indicate that the driver was guilty of drowsy driving.
We’re There When You Need Us
Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers. They can cause extreme injuries and even fatalities in the blink of an eye. When you’ve been injured in a car accident by a drowsy driver, it is important to know that you are not alone. You need an experienced and skilled car accident law firm on your side with the resources needed to tackle these complex cases. At Rainwater, Holt, & Sexton, our car accident attorneys fight aggressively for your future and will negotiate with the auto insurance companies on your behalf every step of the way.
We’ve Got You Covered
With five offices in Arkansas—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Bryant, and Hot Springs—our Arkansas car accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured. Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story.