The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driving while tired poses a severely dangerous risk to drivers, passengers, and anyone in the path of the cars being driven. Driver fatigue is generally due to not getting a full night’s rest. Other contributing factors to drowsy driving include sleep disorders, drinking alcohol, using medications, and long work-shifts.
Being drowsy makes it hard to anticipate traffic emergencies. Tired drivers don’t react to dangerous conditions by applying their brakes or steering out of danger – as quickly as drivers who are rested. Tired drivers often fail to focus on the road in front of them. They can also suffer from driver distraction as they try to do things to stay awake. Drowsy drivers often grab for a copy of coffee, roll down the windows, play the radio or the CD player to try to stay awake.
CDC drowsy driver statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. The CDC believes these numbers are low.
What are some of the warning signs of drowsy driving
Drivers, passengers, family, friends, and co-workers should be on the lookout for drowsy driving symptoms. If someone is tired, the best remedy is to stop and get enough rest instead of getting into the car. The second best remedy is to get off the road as soon as possible if drowsy driving is occurring, Drivers should go home, to a friend’s place, to a motel, or even to a parking lot and sleep off their fatigue.
How often do Americans fall asleep while driving?
“According to a survey among nearly 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia:
4% reported that they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the previous 30 days.
Individuals who snored or usually slept 6 or fewer hours per day were more likely to report falling asleep while driving”
Some of the signs of fatigue, according to the CDC, include:
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
- Missing your exit.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road.
Drivers who are likely to drive while drowsy
Everyone is susceptible to being tired before they get into a car. Some drivers who are especially prone to drowsy driving are:
- Drivers of large commercial trucks, bus drivers, and drivers of semis and 18-wheelers
- Workers who work long shifts and drivers who work the night shift
- Drivers who have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea
- Drivers who regularly take medications that cause fatigue
- Business drivers often drive drowsy especially if their business is in a different time zone than the one for their home residence
General tips for avoiding drowsy driving
Most people need at least seven hours, preferably eight hours, sleep each night. If anything, teenage drivers need more sleep than adult drivers.
It is best to stick to a sleep routine. This means going to bed the same time every night.
People who know they have a sleep disorder should seek medical attention.
Drivers should speak with doctor about the best time to take medications that might make them drowsy.
Drivers should always avoid drinking and then getting in to a car and driving.
Why it is hard to drive defensively around tired drivers
Other drivers really cannot defend themselves from a drowsy driver because there usually aren’t warning signs. If there are signs, such as swerving or driving too closely, other drivers still don’t know what the drowsy driver will do next.
Laws against drowsy driving
Florida does not directly set any sleep requirements for everyday car drivers. The Federal Carrier Motor Safety Administration (FMCSA) dose set sleep requirements for commercial truck drivers.
- Drivers that carry cargo can only drive a maximum of 11 hours after they have been off for 10 hours
- Commercial drivers can not drive more than 60 hours during a six day shift and 70 hours over a seven day shift.
There are also time limits for drivers who transport passengers such as bus and commercial van drivers.
Truck drivers are generally required to keep logs, usually electronic, to verify when the hours they have been driving.
Injuries from drowsy driving accidents
Drowsy driving can kill the driver, any passengers in the vehicle, any occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycle riders
Drowsy drivers also cause catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and damage to the spinal cord. Other possible injuries include broken bones, nerve damage, cuts and bruises, bleeding, and other serious injuries
Liability for drowsy driving
While the driver is the primary responsible party, the owner of the vehicle (if different than the driver) may also be liable. Liability of owners is based on the premise that owners owe the public a duty to only give the keys to their cars to responsible drivers.
Generally, drowsy drivers will not admit they were tired. Skilled Florida car accident lawyers examine the police reports, the site of the accident, evidence of speeding or alcohol use, and other fatigue factors, They also work with investigators and staff to question any passengers. At a deposition, they will question when the driver last slept and ask other questions to prove the driver was too tired to drive.