Drowsy (or fatigued) driving is a very serious problem on U.S. roads and highways. According to a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database recorded 824 fatalities related to drowsy driving in 2015 alone. However, the NHTSA cautions that the number of fatalities associated with drowsy driving may be underreported with some studies suggesting that there may be as many 1.2 million accidents and 8,000 lives lost each year due to drowsy driving.
The NHTSA explains that although sleepiness can hit a driver at any time of the day, the majority of drowsy driving accidents take place in the late afternoon or between the hours of midnight and 6:00am (both are times when individuals experience dips in their circadian rhythms – the 24-hour internal body clock that regulates our sleep/wake cycle). Regardless of the time, when a person who is behind the wheel starts to feel drowsy or nods off even for a second, the outcome can be deadly.
Florida’s state legislature has designated the first week of September each year as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week” in an effort to educate the public on the dangers of driving drowsy and to remember Ronshay Dugans, an 8-year-old who was killed in 2008 when a driver who feel asleep at the wheel collided with the school bus she was on. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Drowsy Driving Campaign provides facts and resources for residents of West Palm Beach and cities throughout the state on how to prevent drowsy driving and points to a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reporting that more than 50 percent of U.S. drivers admitted to driving while drowsy and nearly 30 percent said that they had fallen asleep while operating a motor vehicle.
Risky Behaviors Associated with Drowsy Driving and Asleep at the Wheel Crashes
Although many drivers do not realize it, getting behind the wheel while sleepy or fatigued is extraordinarily dangerous and can result in a catastrophic accident. Some of the most common risks and behaviors leading to drowsy or asleep at the wheel crashes, include:
- Lack of Sleep. Lack of sleep and operating a motor vehicle is a dangerous combination. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day. Drivers who have had no sleep or only a few hours of rest pose a serious risk to other motorists, bikers and pedestrians. Fatigued or sleep deprived drivers tend to have slower reaction times, reduced concentration and difficulty in make proper driving decisions.
- Consumption of Alcohol. Alcohol not only impairs driving and slows reaction time, it can also increase drowsiness. Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol is never a good idea and even a moderate amount of drinking can cause a driver to fall asleep at the wheel.
- Medications. Drowsiness is a dangerous side effect associated with many medications. Regardless of whether a pill has been prescribed by doctor or is an over the counter drug found on a pharmacy shelf, drivers need to aware that that many medications can cause drowsiness and impair driving performance.
- Higher-Risk Individuals. As the FDOT notes, certain groups of people are more at risk for driving drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel, including people who work shifts or long hours, commercial and long-haul drivers, business travelers, young drivers (particularly males under the age of 26) and individuals with undiagnosed/untreated sleep disorders.
Warning Signs of Fatigue or Drowsiness
Accidents caused by fatigued drivers or motorists who fall asleep at the wheel can be avoided. There are many warning signs that can let you know that it is time to get pull over and get some rest:
- Inability to focus on the road
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
- Slower reaction times
- Stiffness in your legs, back or other parts of the body
- Missing an exit
- Inability to control your driving speed
While many drivers think that a jolt of caffeine can keep them awake, a driver who is experiencing these types of symptoms needs to take a break. Failing to listen to what your body is telling you can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and injure yourself, the occupants of your car and other innocent people who are on the road.
Drowsy Driving Accidents Victims Can Recover Compensation for their Injuries and Losses
If you have been hurt in a car accident caused by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, or if a family member has been killed in a drowsy driving crash, you deserve to receive compensation for your losses. A West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney skilled in handling drowsy driving cases can file a personal injury lawsuit to collect monetary compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages. In situations involving the loss of life, your attorney can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the drowsy driver on behalf of the surviving family members.
Hollander Law Firm has years of experience helping people who have been injured in serious car crashes, including collisions caused by drowsy drivers. Our personal injury law firm represents motor vehicle accident victims throughout South Florida, including the cities of West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. We take a thorough and aggressive approach in drowsy driving cases, carefully reviewing all of the evidence including police reports, eyewitness statements, medical records and other critical documents.
If your case involved a fatigued truck driver, Hollander Law Firm has the experience and resources needed to handle these highly complex cases. In many truck accident cases multiple parties may be held liable for your damages, including the driver, the owner of the truck or trailer and the hauling company. A truck accident lawyer at our Boca Raton based firm will identify all responsible parties and fight to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a West Palm Beach Drowsy Driving Accident Attorney
Hollander Law Firm is committed to ensuring that victims of drowsy driving accidents receive the full compensation they need to recover and move forward with their lives. If you or someone you love has been hurt or killed by a fatigued or at-sleep driver on a roadway in South Florida, we encourage you to call a West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney at our firm today at (561) 347-7770.