Drowsy Driving Accident Attorneys in Mobile, AL
Your eyes droop, your head nods. All of us know the signs of being tired. But when you are tired do you hesitate to get behind the wheel? Probably not.
Most of us think we can power through the sleepiness. Maybe have some coffee. After all, we’re not drunk, right? No, you’re not drunk but you are impaired and that impairment can have the same outcome as driving drunk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is estimated that one in 25 drivers, age 18 and older, has fallen asleep while driving in just the last 30 days!
Drowsy driving was responsible for 91,000 police-reported crashes in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As a result, 50,000 were injured and 800 killed and that is likely a conservative estimate, according to NHTSA in agreement with sleep science and public health officials.
Closer to home, the Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) at the University of Alabama reports in 2018 there were 953 people killed in more than 800 fatal crashes. There are no statistics available on how many of those drivers fell asleep or drove drowsy.
Unfortunately, drowsy driving is quite common. According to the CDC, about one-third of us sleep less than the recommended seven hours a night but drowsy driving is difficult to quantify.
There are no markers for drowsy driving with the exception of an absence of brake marks before a collision. Unlike drunk driving, where we can measure the drivers’ blood alcohol content (BAC), drowsy driving may be difficult to ascertain as the cause of an accident.
So, whether it’s a long drive down a deserted highway, a rural cross-country trip, a 2 a.m. return trip home from a late shift at work, the outcome can be just as devastating as drunk driving.
What is Drowsy Driving?
While we hear warnings about driving under the influence (DUI), you don’t hear much about driving while drowsy.
You might be surprised by how easy it is to become drowsy. For example:
- Going without sleep for 18 to 24 hours can equal the level of impairment of drunk driving
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic and Safety (AAA) defines drowsy as less than 5 hours of sleep a day, less than 7 hours in the last 24 hours, or even getting one hour less sleep a night than usual
- Sleepers who snore or sleep six hours or less are more likely to fall asleep while driving
- Drowsy driving can also be the result of an undiagnosed sleep disorder, medication, alcohol, or shift work
- Drowsy driving can result from sleep interruption such as a new baby
- Missing just one to two hours of sleep a night will double your risk of a crash, according to AAA.
- It’s estimated that fatigue plays a role in between 16 to 60 percent of road accidents in the U.S.
Study Finds Fatigued Driving Just as Dangerous as Drunk Driving
A study published by AAA in 2016 found that fatigued driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. The study from the auto group found that drivers who missed anywhere from two to three hours of sleep per day quadruple their risk of being involved in an accident. This statistic is compared to drivers who are able to get at least seven hours of sleep per day.
What makes this issue even scarier is that 41 percent of Americans told AAA that they have fallen asleep or nodded off while behind the wheel at some point during their lifetime. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called fatigued driving a form of impaired driving. Not getting enough sleep is a form of impairment, because it affects the brain and how motorists can gauge distance and other needed skills when driving.
The NTSB attributes fatigued driving to more than 100,000 accidents across the country every year. At the same time, anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 fatal accidents in the United States can be attributed to driving while drowsy or fatigued. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that once a person is awake for more than 24 hours, a person’s level of fatigue impairment equates to being above the legal limit for alcohol impairment in every state.
Who is Most Likely to Drive Drowsy?
- Men – According to a 2019 survey taken by The Zebra, the insurance shopping service, one-third of men (fewer than one-quarter of women) were the most likely to have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
- Young Drivers – Any teen with less driving experience and a high rate of sleep deprivation can be affected by drowsy driving. Young drivers ages 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to drive while drowsy as older drivers ages 40-59, according to AAA.
- Commercial Drivers – There are times when commercial drivers have been given unrealistic schedules to deliver goods around the country. When one has to push the limits beyond what is safe, crashes can occur. Statistics show between the hours of midnight at 6 a.m. are the hours most likely to encourage sleep and drowsiness behind the wheel.
- Shift Workers – Workers who have not adjusted to irregular work hours are fighting the circadian rhythm of their body. Working two jobs can exacerbate scheduling problems. Additionally, if your work hours frequently change, drowsy driving may be the result.
- Sleep Apnea Sufferers – Sleep apnea is estimated to affect more than 70 million Americans. Sleep apnea occurs when the body stops breathing at night. That can happen 20 to 60 times an hour, depriving you of good sleep. Without 7 to 9 hours of sleep you may become a victim of drowsy driving, especially on long hauls.
- Drivers on Drugs – Any driver who drinks while driving is likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. Drinking along with being sleep deprived may also exaggerate the effects of alcohol, making one drink feel like four or five. When starting a new medication, check out its potential to cause sleepiness before taking off on the road long distance.
As an individual you have the ability to decide when you are rested enough to hit the road and you hope others are also responsible drivers. If not, they are putting everyone in danger.
Consider the commercial driver behind the wheel of a big-rig, bus, or dump truck. Commercial drivers have to follow hours-of-services rules set forth that limit their time behind the wheel to 11 hours in a 14-hour span. These rules are designed to deter drowsy and fatigued driving. Unfortunately, far too many truckers are under pressure to deliver their loads on time and meet unrealistic deadlines. This forces them to make a choice between following the law and getting the rest they need, or meeting their delivery deadline.
A study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), titled the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), found that 13 percent of commercial vehicle drivers were considered to have been fatigued during a trucking accident. Accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers can be some of the most tragic that occur on Alabama roadways, because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicles involved.
We know that drowsy driving occurs mostly between midnight and 6 a.m. when people should be sleeping. Often there is a single driver who runs off the road without braking. These accidents are often seen along highways or rural roads and they are entirely preventable.
Drowsy Driving will:
* Slow down your reaction time and thought processes
* Make you less attentive
* Effect your vision and judgment
* Impair your abilities to make decisions
* Impairs information processing and short-term memory
* Increase aggressive behavior and moodiness while decreasing vigilance and performance
Addressing Drowsy Driving
Understanding if you snooze, everyone can lose, how then do you address drowsy driving?
Powering through is probably not the best remedy.
- Pull over and find a safe place to rest. On a long trip, stop every two hours and walk around enough to circulate your blood
- Make sure your driving teen is well rested
- If you use the buddy system you can change drivers when it’s necessary
- Coffee will help increase alertness for a couple of hours
- Try to get enough sleep, at least seven hours a night
- Never drive taking alcohol or medications that cause you to be tired
Basically, being drowsy is the body’s way of saying you need rest not that you need to get behind the wheel!
Finding an Experienced Alabama Auto Accident Personal Injury Attorney
Alabama operates under the laws of pure contributory negligence. These are laws designed to minimize your chances of recovery in the courtroom. That’s because if you contributed, even one percent to the cause of your accident, the defense will try and have you barred from pursuing any compensation.
Please do not have any conversations with the other side at the scene of the accident. And never talk to the insurer for the other side without consulting with us. Your chances of recovery will be greatly diminished if you do.
In the case of an auto accident that may have resulted from one of the drivers being drowsy, an experienced plaintiff’s lawyer will have to look for the evidence from the scene. Were there skid marks before the crash which could indicate whether the driver was alert or not?
We have the experience to ask the necessary questions in order to uncover the true at-fault driver. Once that is determined, you may be eligible to recover your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and the cost of rehabilitation.
J. Allan Brown offers you a complimentary consultation on all of the factors, including drowsy driving, that led to your accident and injury. Call us at (251) 220-3199 to arrange for a meeting at our offices or at your convenience.