Car driver fatigue is a significant risk factor in traffic accidents nationwide. Every year, thousands of crashes occur on U.S. roads because drivers make mistakes due to fatigue or inadequate sleep. Victims of these accidents regularly suffer severe injuries or fatalities.
Because car driver fatigue is such a significant public health problem, let's discuss its dangers, causes, and consequences. This includes a review of an experienced Atlanta car accident injury lawyer's role in securing compensation for victims of fatigue-related accidents.
The Data on Car Driver Fatigue and Its Dangers
Car driver fatigue (or drowsy driving) is a constant, though under-appreciated, hazard on U.S. roads. Crash data reflect that it's both common and dangerous.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, fatigue is comparable to alcohol in its ability to impair a driver. Similarly to a drunk driver, a tired driver's reflexes and judgment plummet, undermining their driving skills.
Studies show that going without sleep for 17 to 19 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent, just below the legal limit for passenger car drivers (and above the limit for commercial drivers). If a driver goes for 24 hours without sleep, it can lead to an impairment comparable to a BAC of 0.10 percent, well over the legal limit for all motorists.
Like drunk drivers, common impairments fatigued drivers experience include:
- Reduced hand-eye coordination.
- Slowed reaction time.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Inability to judge speed and distance.
- Compromised judgment and problem-solving skills.
- Lack of focus and situational awareness.
Fatigued drivers may also experience microsleep, a hazardous phenomenon that refers to brief periods of sleep that can last from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds. During this time, the driver is essentially unconscious. Microsleep can happen without the driver realizing it, meaning they briefly black out. During these episodes, a car driving at speed can travel a significant distance with no one controlling it.
Examining crash data underscores the danger of driver fatigue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a single year, nearly 100,000 crashes resulted directly from driver fatigue. They caused an estimated 50,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths.
Despite the staggering statistics, the lack of a standardized fatigue test, like a breathalyzer for alcohol, makes it difficult to pinpoint it as the sole cause of an accident. The chronic lack of adequate quality sleep among Americans further complicates tracking accurate data.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that around a third of all Americans, on average, get insufficient quality sleep. As such, the true impact of driver fatigue may be much higher than the figures suggest.
Risk Factors for Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue doesn't occur in a vacuum, nor is a particular group of drivers more at risk. Multiple societal, health, and environmental factors contribute to this widespread problem.
Societal, Health, and Environmental Factors
Several societal factors contribute to driver fatigue, including shift work, driving at a time they would normally sleep, and a fast-paced lifestyle that leaves little time for adequate rest.
A culture of long working hours and multiple jobs prevalent in certain sectors also increases the chances of driver fatigue. The more hours an individual works in a day, the less time they have to sleep and the higher the risk of fatigue.
Health issues can also contribute to driver fatigue. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and other health conditions, such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health issues, can inhibit a person's ability to sleep well.
This can increase their risk of fatigue while driving. Certain driving behaviors and environments can also contribute to tiredness, including driving without breaks, through the night, or on long, boring roads.
Lack of Awareness About Fatigue's Dangers
One of the significant reasons for the persistence of driver fatigue as a crash risk factor is the relative lack of public awareness about its dangers. Many people underestimate the risk fatigue poses, equating tiredness to a minor, everyday inconvenience rather than a potentially deadly impairment.
Just as there have been public awareness campaigns about the risks of drunk driving and speeding, public officials have begun to recognize the need for more education about the dangers of driving while fatigued, but they fight an uphill battle. Significant proportions of the driving public suffer from chronic fatigue; there's no silver bullet to solving it. Raising awareness can only go so far in curbing the incidence of fatigued driver accidents.
The Role Personal Injury Law Can Play in Combating Driver Fatigue
Personal injury law can play a significant role in combating car driver fatigue. Holding drivers financially accountable for the accidents they cause while tired can be a considerable deterrent and influencer of driver behaviors.
When victims of car accidents pursue legal action against fatigued drivers, they highlight the problem and shift its cost to those responsible. In other words, holding fatigued car drivers financially liable sends a strong message: driving while tired is irresponsible and unacceptable.
Holding fatigued drivers accountable can also lead to higher insurance rates for those found liable or most at risk, which may deter others from driving while fatigued. Those drivers, in turn, may notice their habits and the need to rest before taking the wheel.
In time, this virtuous cycle can lead to better driving habits, a higher respect for the dangers of driving while fatigued, and (hopefully) fewer fatigued driving accidents.
Seeking Compensation for a Fatigued Driving Accident
If you or a loved one were a victim of a fatigued driving accident, you may have the legal right to receive compensation. Multiple parties could owe you monetary damages, and you could recover significant payment for your losses.
Who Has Liability for a Fatigued Driving Accident?
You can hold anyone who causes an accident through careless, reckless, or intentional misconduct liable for the harm that results.
In fatigued driving accidents, the driver who took the wheel while overly tired should owe damages to crash victims, and that's usually the case.
Fatigued drivers aren't necessarily the only parties you can hold liable for the harm that a tired driver causes.
Others could include:
- Employers in cases where the fatigued driver was driving for work at the time of the accident, especially if an employer knew or should have known about the driver's fatigue.
- Vehicle manufacturers if a defect in the vehicle exacerbated the effects of the driver's fatigue or independently contributed to the cause of the crash.
- Government entities if they created or maintained unreasonably dangerous roads that added to the risk of a fatigued driving accident.
These are just a few examples that illustrate how a fatigued car driver isn't necessarily the only party who could be at fault for an accident. To find out who might be liable for damages after a fatigued driver accident, speak with a skilled, experienced attorney today.
What a Lawyer Does for Victims of a Car Driver Fatigue Accident
Victims of car driver fatigue accidents frequently experience physical pain, emotional trauma, and large, unplanned costs. The primary job of an experienced car accident lawyer is to secure as much compensation as possible on your behalf to help you pay for your care and rebuild after your trauma. While your lawyer works to protect your interests, you can focus your time and energy on healing from your injuries and planning for the future.
A car accident lawyer can take various steps to ensure full and fair compensation for the victim of a fatigued car driver crash. The specific steps a lawyer takes depend on your needs and priorities.
They can include:
- Investigating a crash to determine if fatigue was its cause and identify all liable parties.
- Acting quickly to locate and preserve evidence of driver fatigue as a contributing cause of the accident.
- Evaluating your damages to ensure that any legal action seeks the maximum possible compensation.
- Answering your questions and advising you of your rights.
- Handling all interactions with insurance companies on your behalf.
- Building the strongest possible case for damages and presenting it for payment via insurance claims or lawsuits filed in court.
- Negotiating settlements with insurance companies and defense lawyers to achieve a fair resolution without a trial.
- Going to trial to prove your case for liability and damages to a judge and jury.
- Taking all necessary steps to ensure payment of a settlement, judgment, or jury award.
Hiring a lawyer to handle your fatigued driver accident claim may seem expensive, but it's not. Most law firms offer free consultations for crash victims and their families. You can use this meeting to learn about your legal options for seeking compensation. You don't have to pay for a consultation, even if you decide not to proceed with legal action.
In addition, most car accident injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. That means they don't charge upfront or by the hour for their services. Their fee instead consists of a percentage of any money they secure for you. In other words, you pay nothing unless your lawyer delivers a result.
Hire a lawyer quickly. There are time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits, which you may know as statutes of limitations. If you don't take legal action within this period, you could lose your legal right to pursue compensation.
Once you hire an experienced attorney, they can start collecting evidence immediately before it is lost or destroyed and can interview witnesses before they forget important details. In short, you have nothing to lose, and potentially lots to gain, by hiring an attorney right away.
Contact an Experienced Fatigued Car Driver Accident Lawyer Today
Americans live busy, often stressful lives. Approximately a third of the population struggles to get enough healthy sleep or have high-quality nightly rest. As a result, fatigue is everywhere, including America's roads. It's a serious, persistent problem.
Fatigue is as dangerous as intoxication for drivers. It causes severe impairments and leads to potentially deadly accidents. Victims of these collisions can sustain severe injuries and face a lifetime of physical, emotional, and financial struggles.
If you believe a fatigued driver caused an accident in which you or someone you love recently sustained injuries, you could have the right to receive significant compensation.
A skilled attorney can handle your case for you. For a free consultation to learn about your rights, contact an experienced fatigued car driver lawyer in your area today.