Driver fatigue is a significant but often overlooked factor in traffic accidents. Fatigued drivers cause thousands of crashes every year, leading to severe injuries and even fatalities.
Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers is committed to helping individuals affected by accidents caused by driver fatigue and raising awareness about this silent threat on our roads.
We want to make the roads a safer place for everyone. However, we realize that even with the best prevention strategies, other negligent drivers will cause accidents.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries due to a drowsy driver, we urge you to reach out to our Port Richey car accident attorneys as soon as possible to learn about your legal options to recover financial compensation.
Driver Fatigue Is a Risk Factor for Accidents
Driver fatigue is a state of physical and mental exhaustion that impairs a driver’s ability to perform safely behind the wheel. Normally, this fatigue results from inadequate rest, sleep, or overexertion. Fatigue reduces alertness, slows reaction times, impairs judgment, and can strike during any time of the day or night. Even a brief lapse in concentration lasting just a few seconds can lead to an accident with catastrophic consequences.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in one recent year alone, 91,000 crashes involved drowsy drivers. However, this number includes only the reported driver fatigue accidents, and the true number is likely much higher.
Who Is at Risk of Drowsy Driving?
Certain individuals should take extra precautions to remain alert while driving.
Truck drivers, in particular, may face a greater risk of driver fatigue. They often must work long shifts and travel much greater distances on a regular basis than other motorists. Combined with the size and weight of commercial trucking vehicles, trucking accidents can cause incredibly catastrophic injuries.
Shift workers are also more likely to crash because of fatigue. According to one study, this risk triples that of drivers with traditional work hours.
Furthermore, younger drivers are more likely to crashes while driving fatigued. Two-thirds of drowsy driving crashes involved men under 30, according to a series of studies.
Finally, those with undiagnosed sleep disorders and conditions are more likely cause a driver fatigue accident.
What Are Causes of Driver Fatigue?
Many factors that can contribute to driver fatigue involve the pressures of working long or irregular hours.
Others include medical issues and sleep disorders.
- Lack of good quality sleep is a leading cause of driver fatigue. Adults typically require seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but many fail to achieve this. Younger drivers require more sleep; consequently, they drive while fatigued more often.
- Shift work or irregular work hours can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, resulting in fatigue.
- Long periods of driving without sufficient breaks can lead to physical and mental fatigue.
- Repetitive, monotonous driving conditions, such as long stretches of highways or rural roads, can lead to boredom and fatigue.
- The consumption of alcohol or certain medications, including over-the-counter drugs, can cause drowsiness and contribute to driver fatigue. Cold and allergy medicines commonly cause drowsiness as a side effect and drivers should avoid them when operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery.
- Medical conditions such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and increase the risk of driver fatigue.
What are Signs and Symptoms of Driver Fatigue?
By recognizing the warning signs of fatigue, drivers can take preventive action before it leads to an accident. Additionally, if you notice other drivers displaying signs of inattention, you should protect yourself and other drivers.
Some of the most common indicators of driver fatigue include:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, and heavy eyelids
- Wandering thoughts or daydreaming
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Difficulty with remembering the last few miles of the drive
- Repeated yawning
- Drifting into other lanes or across the road’s rumble strip
- Tailgating other drivers or following too far behind
- Feeling restless or irritable
While you may want to power through a long drive or ignore your body’s signals to save time, that may endanger yourself or others. By planning your commute properly and getting adequate rest, you can avoid the unnecessary risk of drowsy driving.
Consequences of Driver Fatigue
While you might not feel that you’re in danger of falling asleep at the wheel, it only takes a fraction of a second for an accident to happen. Lack of concentration and fatigue can lead to serious, far-reaching consequences in more ways than one.
Some of the risks associated with drowsy driving include:
- Slowed reaction times. Just like alcohol, fatigue can make it difficult to respond to sudden changes in traffic conditions and remain conscious of one’s surroundings. According to clinical data shared by The National Sleep Foundation, being awake for extended periods (17 to 19 hours) is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent. Longer periods of sleep deprivation can lead to even more impairment.
- Judgment and decision-making suffer. Fatigue makes maintaining a safe following distance or responding appropriately to traffic signals much more difficult. Additionally, drowsiness makes it more difficult to gauge how sleepy you really are.
- Involuntary episodes of microsleep can happen when you ignore your body’s signals of fatigue. These lapses in attention may only last a few seconds, but they can lead to loss of vehicle control during that time and cause serious accidents.
- Other consequences of drowsy driving may include fines, license suspensions, or even criminal charges in severe cases. While Florida law establishes no criminal penalty for fatigued driving, your actions could fall under careless driving and subject you to the corresponding fines and penalties.
Preventing Driver Fatigue
The crisis of drowsy driving crashes in Florida has spurred many education and prevention campaigns. The Florida Legislature declared the first week of September Drowsy Driving Prevention Week following the tragic passing of an eight-year-old child due to a motorist who fell asleep at the wheel.
Sleep deprivation and negligence cause too many other accidents such as this one.
The good news is that by following these practical guidelines, drivers can reduce the risk of fatigue-related motor vehicle crashes.
- Prioritize sleep by ensuring you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Good sleep is crucial to our mental well-being as well as the ability to drive safely.
- Schedule regular breaks during long drives. Take a break at least every two hours or every 100 miles, whichever comes first. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) offers an interactive map of rest areas throughout the state for your convenience.
- Sharing driving responsibilities when possible can alleviate driver fatigue on long trips. Of course, other drivers must also follow safety guidelines and licensing laws.
- Maintain good nutrition and hydration while driving. When you travel long distances, plan to stop and rest, drink water, and consume something nutritious to keep your energy levels up. Avoid eating and drinking behind the wheel, as these activities can contribute to distracted driving.
- Be cautious when taking medications, as they can contribute to drowsiness. Check the labels of any medications you are taking and consult your healthcare professional for advice when in doubt. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid driving after taking certain drugs, even medically necessary ones.
- Seek medical help if you suspect that you have an untreated sleep disorder. If you find that you routinely struggle to stay awake, a healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms and determine what precautions you might take or treatments you need to avoid fatigue during waking hours.
If a Drowsy Driver Injures You, Contact a Skilled Attorney to Learn About Your Rights
Driver fatigue is a serious and often overlooked threat on our roads, with potentially devastating consequences. By educating ourselves and others about this widespread problem, we can take initiatives to make our roads safer.
At Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers, we help individuals injured in accidents caused by driver fatigue. If a fatigued driver injured you or a loved one, our experienced team of attorneys is ready to navigate the legal process and pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (727) 845-5972 for a free consultation to discuss your case.