Driving when you are tired or drowsy dramatically increases your risk of being involved in a collision. Being sleepy behind the wheel means that you are not as fully alert or aware as you would be had you gotten a full night's sleep. You might be sluggish or have delayed reaction times, which can mean the difference between a near-miss and a catastrophic collision. In fact, driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The team at our Arlington personal injury law firm have helped countless clients who've been involved in auto collisions. We'd like to take a moment to consider driver fatigue accidents and why they need to be taken seriously.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, up to 21 percent of all fatal auto accidents can be attributed to driver fatigue or drowsiness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that around 100,000 police-reported collisions are linked to driver fatigue, causing up wards of 1,550 fatalities a year and 71,000 injuries.
These numbers paint a grim picture, though keep in mind that drowsiness can be a major contributing factor to collisions attributed to other causes. For instance, drowsiness may be linked to driver inattention or may be the result of driving while drunk.
Given the nature of driver fatigue, it should come as no surprise that these collisions are often associated with truck drivers.
The most well-known instance of driver fatigue in recent years was the 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and took the life of his friend and fellow comedian James McNair. Their vehicle was was struck from behind by a Walmart tractor-trailer, causing a multi-car collision on the New Jersey Turnpike.
It was revealed that the driver of the Walmart truck had been awake for more than 24 hours prior to the collision. The driver fell asleep behind the wheel and as a result caused the fatal collision. Walmart settled with Morgan for an undisclosed amount, and reached a $10 million settlement with McNair's family.
Driver fatigue and the dangers of drowsiness are common in the trucking industry. The long hours on the road are part of the job, and many drivers are pushed beyond reason, causing them to miss sleep or work without sleep. Truck drivers and trucking companies need to take extra responsibility to prevent these kinds of senseless collisions from occurring, which means drivers resting before they get behind the wheel and companies having reasonable scheduling demands of their drivers.
Drowsiness can affect anyone on the road, so it's important that you take all necessary precautions to ensure your safety when you drive. Always get ample rest before getting on the road. Take breaks every few hours to get out of your vehicle, walk, and stretch. This can help keep you alert as you drive. If you do feel drowsy, find a safe place to park for a nap.
If you are ever feeling too tired to drive, have a friend drive for you, or hire a cab. Better to be safe than sorry.
For more information about your legal rights following a major auto collision, be sure to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today. An attorney can help you hold negligent motorists and parties accountable for their actions.