Vehicle accidents continue to be a huge problem in the United States with approximately 1.3 million people dying in car accidents every year. Traveling or commuting in a vehicle has become by far the most dangerous mode of transportation.
While the number of car accidents and fatalities might not come as a surprise, the top causes for car accidents might be. Drowsy driving has been compared to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in that both inhibit the driver’s ability to pay attention to the road and make decisions while properly controlling the dangers of causing an accident are similar.
Drowsy driving occurs when a driver is on the road for long periods of time with little rest. It can also occur as a result of untreated sleep disorders, certain medications or late-night shift work.
Facts about Fatigue and Fatalities
Drowsiness or extreme fatigue impacts drivers in several ways. Falling asleep while behind the wheel is dangerous of course, however, signs or symptoms of fatigue can also do a lot of damage long before a driver actually falls unconscious. For example, fatigue and drowsiness can:
- Affect the driver’s awareness or attention
- Affect the driver’s reaction time to brake or swerve suddenly
- Affect the driver’s decision-making ability, such as to change lanes or to take the correct turn or exit
The risks, dangers, and tragic results of drowsy driving are alarming. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 accidents and 800 deaths in 2013 alone. Furthermore, approximately 150,000 adults admitted to have fallen asleep while driving at least once in a 30-day period.
A significant portion of drowsy driving accidents involve large trucks or semi-trailers. Large commercial trucks, tractor-trailers, and semi-trailers are responsible for one in seven highway deaths.
Drowsy Driving: Commercial Truck Drivers
Although drowsy driving can impact every driver, truck drivers and commercial shift drivers are infamous for drowsy driving. Often this is due to unreasonable or even illegal schedule demands placed on the driver by their employer.
Commercial truck drivers must follow strict federal regulations in order to prevent drowsy driving and fatal accidents. For example, the “work week” for a trucker has been reduced from 82 hours to 72 hours. Truckers must also follow a mandatory 34-hour rest period. These rest periods must also be from 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to allow for ample rest time. Truck drivers must also not drive more than 11 hours per day.
However, despite federal regulations, many commercial truck drivers continue to drive drowsy either due to pressure from their employer to deliver or in an effort to obtain more deliveries to earn more money.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Many fatigued drivers get into their vehicles without giving it much thought or realizing it. Only after driving for a brief time will the serious signs of fatigue begin to show. The key warning signs of drowsy driving include the following:
- Frequent blinking or yawning
- Difficulty remembering
- Missing exits or turns
- Drifting or swerving in between lanes
- Hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road
- Drifting in and out of sleep
Of course avoiding driving late at night altogether is one way to avoid drowsy driving, it’s not always an option, especially if you are a commercial truck driver. Some drivers attempt to take steps to remain awake such as:
- Opening the windows
- Listening to music
- Drinking a caffeinated beverage
However, if you are driving while drowsy you should instead pull over the vehicle and either sleep at a rest area or ask a well rested passenger to drive instead. There is no excuse for risking your life and the lives of other drivers on the road.
What to Do if You Have Been in an Accident Caused by Drowsy Driving
It is unfortunate that car and truck accidents related to drowsy driving happen on the road every day. If you were involved in a car accident caused by drowsy driving, it’s important to remember that you have rights – regardless of who caused the accident.
Contact the Law Offices of Attorney Kohm today for a free consultation at (817) 522-4451 or by contacting us online.