Most drivers know the risks of driving under the influence, including driving after taking both common prescription and nonprescription medications. State and local programs increasingly push awareness of the consequences of driving while distracted, from talking on a cell phone to eating and drinking in the vehicle.
Unfortunately, many drivers fail to realize the hazard associated with driving while fatigued.
Dealing With Driver Fatigue on the Roads
In the past 30 days, an average of 24 percent of drivers admits to driving while fatigued. An average of 20 percent admits to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past year, while an estimated 40 percent of drivers admit that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their driving career.
Each year, nearly 50,000 people across the United States suffer injuries in drowsy driving accidents. Drowsy driving poses a real and present danger on the roads. However, all too many drivers continue to get behind the wheel while fatigued or continue driving long past the point where fatigue sets in.
What Happens When You Drive Fatigued?
Drowsy driving causes some of the same challenges you might face if you got behind the wheel after drinking. Mild fatigue can occur at the end of a long shift or after spending too long behind the wheel. More serious fatigue, on the other hand, can lead to more serious consequences, often with fatal results.
1. Driver attention decreases.
Driving while drowsy can make it harder for drivers to pay attention to the road. Their eyes may wander away from the task at hand, or they may have trouble focusing on the actions of other drivers around them, including potentially dangerous actions that could lead to serious accidents.
Drivers may also engage in more distractions while driving because they need to try to keep themselves awake, though those distractions may further damage their ability to focus.
2. Drowsiness can decrease judgment.
Often, drowsy people struggle to make the right judgment call. That may mean reacting more emotionally to a dangerous situation on the road or getting pulled into serious road rage, or it might mean having trouble determining whether the driver can safely pull out into or across traffic.
Drowsy drivers may lose some processing capability, which can make it harder for them to keep up with everything happening on the road around them.
3. Drowsy drivers have slowed reaction times.
Reaction time offers critical opportunities to avoid accidents on the road. Whether another driver slams on his brakes or someone steps out into traffic, a drowsy driver may have more trouble reacting safely to those circumstances.
Drowsy drivers may need more time to safely bring their vehicles to a stop in an emergency. Unfortunately, those drivers may not realize the full extent of their impairment until they cause an accident.
4. Drowsy drivers may suffer a decrease in coordination.
Driving requires a great deal of coordination. Drivers must control the steering wheel and pedals while maneuvering a large vehicle through traffic.
Unfortunately, drowsiness can decrease coordination. As fatigue increases, drivers may have trouble safely controlling their vehicles, which may lead to severe accident risk.
5. In a worst-case scenario, drivers could fall asleep behind the wheel.
Some drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel, especially after a long shift at work or a long time on the road. When the driver falls asleep, the vehicle has no one to control it. With the driver’s foot still on the gas, the vehicle will continue to move forward without regard for what might end up in front of it.
The car may slam straight into something in front of it or to the side as traffic patterns change. Uncontrolled vehicles may also careen into a ditch or stationary object outside the car.
Handling the Aftermath of a Fatigued Driving Accident
Often, you can clearly see when other drivers sharing the road with you suffer from fatigue, the influence of drugs or alcohol, or distraction. Those drivers may weave on the road, drift out of their assigned lane, or perform obviously dangerous driving maneuvers.
Sometimes, quick safety precautions can help you get out of the way of those drivers and reduce your risk of suffering serious injuries in an accident. Other times, however, you may note serious problems with another driver’s behavior just in time to suffer serious injuries in an accident. What should you do next?
1. Report the accident.
Drowsy driving accidents occur most often late at night or early in the morning. Drowsy drivers may try to convince you not to report the accident so they can get home or hurry to their destination. They may insist that they have had time to wake up and will drive much more safely thanks to the accident.
Even if you suffered only a minor fender bender, however, report the accident and wait for the police to arrive. You may later discover that you suffered more serious injury or damage to your vehicle than you thought, and reporting the accident can make it easier to get the compensation you deserve.
2. Share your suspicions with the police.
Because fatigued driving can mimic inebriation, you may want to let the police know what behaviors you saw that indicated driver fatigue. The police can then decide whether they need to perform a BAC test.
3. See a doctor about any injuries you may have suffered.
Even minor rear-end collisions, for example, can result in whiplash or spinal cord injuries. A doctor can help identify those injuries and give you a better idea of your prognosis.
4. Contact an attorney.
An attorney can help investigate your drowsy driving accident claim and give you more information about the compensation you deserve, especially if you suffer severe injuries in the accident.
Drowsy driving causes hundreds of thousands of injuries each year. An experienced car accident attorney can help you learn more about the compensation you deserve, and help you pursue compensation after a drowsy driving accident.
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