You are probably aware of the risks associated with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. But did you know that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous? Drowsy driving is a leading cause of car accidents in this region and across the United States.
Fortunately, this common driving hazard is entirely preventable. This discussion provides what you need to know about the dangers of drowsy driving to protect you, your passengers, and everyone on the road with you.
Drowsy Driving Is a Common Risk
Fatigue has a wide range of causes. Some drivers feel sleepy after driving long stretches of monotonous highway. Many are commercial drivers who work long hours and often drive overnight. The average driver can feel drowsy after a single night of sleeplessness or experience ongoing fatigue from untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
Some medications, including over-the-counter and prescribed drugs, cause drowsiness as well. Often, these effects are exacerbated when medications are mixed with each other or with alcohol.
How Fatigue Affects the Mind and Body?
Research shows staying awake at least 18 hours is the same as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Being awake for at least 24 hours is like having a BAC of 0.10 percent. That is higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent in most states.
Drivers who do not get enough sleep before operating a vehicle can experience many of the same cognitive and physiological changes as someone who has consumed alcohol. A fatigued driver may have impaired decision-making, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination. They may also be more inclined to take risks and drive aggressively. All these changes are unsafe for driving.
Some drivers are so tired they actually fall asleep for a few seconds. In those few seconds, it is easy for the vehicle to go off the road or collide with another vehicle, a structure, or a pedestrian.
How Common Is Drowsy Driving?
Are you one of the millions of Americans who snore or get less than six hours of sleep per day? If you answered yes, you are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel.
Beyond being one of the more deadly driving behaviors on roads today, drowsy driving is also among the most common. Research studies on the topic found that one in 25 adults ages 18 and up reported falling asleep while driving in the past 30 days.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police-reported drowsy-driving accidents happen every year in this country. An AAA Foundation study found the overall number of fatigue-related accidents is much higher at 328,000, more than three times the total of reported crashes.
NHTSA identifies individuals who are most at risk of drowsy driving based on research and crash data: young men between the ages of 16 and 29, shift workers, and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders.
Signs You May Be Too Tired to Drive
Anyone who has experience driving has certainly felt tired at times. However, when are you too tired to drive safely? Here are the warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Missing turns or exits
- Tired and droopy eyes
- Frequent yawning or blinking
- Forgetting the past few miles driven
- Difficulty keeping up with the pace of traffic
- Veering out of your lane, onto the rumble strips or sleeper lines
- Microsleeps or falling asleep for a few seconds
Tips to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Every driver can make simple health and lifestyle changes to ensure they get sufficient sleep and are ready and alert to drive each time they get behind the wheel. It is important to get a good night’s sleep before a trip.
If you find yourself waking up and still feeling tired or groggy, you may have a sleep disorder. Speak with your health care provider about difficulty sleeping, snoring, or other sleep challenges.
It is a misconception that drinking coffee, opening the window, or turning up the radio is enough to keep a driver alert enough to drive safely. If you notice any of these signs of fatigue, it is best to wait for an opportunity to pull over to a safe place. Change drivers or take a 15- to 20-minute nap.
Maryland and Washington DC Car Insurance Guidelines
Every licensed driver in the DC area should be familiar with insurance coverage requirements. The law in Maryland and the District of Columbia is likely to have an impact on your accident claim.
As with every other state, Maryland and the District of Columbia require every vehicle registered and operated to be insured in case of an accident. Liability insurance is required. It is used to cover accident injuries, damage to vehicles, and other losses from an accident caused by the insured person.
Drivers in DC and Maryland who purchase insurance must also be offered no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. After an accident, drivers who purchased no-fault insurance have 60 days to decide if they want to receive at-fault benefits from their own policy or file a claim against the driver who was at-fault.
Personal Injury Claims for Drowsy Driving Accidents
Every driver has a duty to operate their vehicle in a safe manner in accordance with local, state, and federal traffic laws. If they know they are too tired to drive but do so anyway, causing an accident and injuries, they may be liable for those damages.
In some cases, insurance covers all of these losses. However, in more serious collisions, the injured person’s pain, medical bills, and lost income far exceed the costs provided by insurance. They may choose to take legal action to pursue additional compensation.
The District of Columbia is one of the few places that follow a so-called contributory negligence rule. That means in a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover damages only if you bear no fault at all for the accident that injured you. Therefore, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit only if the other driver was entirely at fault for the accident.
Keep in mind, it is not always easy to prove someone was drowsy at the time of a collision, but it can be done. Law enforcement and personal injury lawyers depend on photos of the accident scene, medical records, dashcam footage, and eyewitness accounts to determine how and why the crash happened.
Possible Damages for Drowsy Driving Accidents
If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident you suspect was caused by drowsy driving, you should be proactive about seeking legal counsel. If you wait for the negligent party to do the right thing, you may miss out on the compensation for which you are entitled.
As the plaintiff in a personal injury claim, you may be entitled to compensation for expenses and losses that include:
- Home health care services
- Physical rehabilitation
- Lost income for missed work
- Loss of earning potential
- Damage to your vehicle and other property
- Physical pain and emotional distress
- Hospitalization, surgeries, prescriptions, and other medical expenses
- Loss of the enjoyment of life because of disability or disfigurement
Drowsy driving is one of the most common, and deadly, hazards facing motorists and pedestrians every day across the United States. If your life has been forever changed because of another’s driver’s negligence, contact an experienced car accident lawyer in your community for guidance.
A personal injury settlement cannot change what happened, but it can help you rebuild and move forward with the peace of mind knowing your expenses are covered.
National Harbor Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Clients Recover from Life-Altering Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a drowsy or impaired driver, reach out to the National Harbor car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. We will investigate the cause of the accident and hold the negligent party responsible so that you receive the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.