When an individual obtains his or her driver’s license in South Carolina, that person is not only gaining the privilege to drive, but is also taking on the responsibility of driving safely. This means following the law, putting away cellphones while behind the wheel, and of course refraining from dangerous and illegal actions like drinking while driving.
But a very dangerous–although not illegal–thing that a driver can do is to drive while fatigued. In fact, drowsy driving has been proven to be a risk factor that increases the chances of an accident occurring, yet is something that drivers often do not think twice about.
The truth is, drowsy driving causes serious accidents, some of which leave victims with disabling or permanent injuries. Other times, drowsy driving accidents are fatal. If you or a family member has been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, our experienced personal injury lawyers at the law offices of Peake & Fowler can guide you through the process of recovering compensation for your damages.
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Driving while drowsy is risky business. In fact, drowsy driving is so dangerous that some studies have shown that driving while fatigued can be as dangerous as driving while impaired. In fact, a study published by the AAA Foundation concluded that drivers who sleep fewer than five hours per night increase their risk of being involved in a crash four to five times (when compared to the risk of a driver who has slept for eight hours or more).
Another study, conducted by researchers in Australia, showed that when a person is awake for 18 hours, the level of impairment that occurs is equivalent to that of a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) impairment of .05 percent. When awake for 24 hours without sleep, the BAC impairment equivalent increases to .10 percent.
Drowsy driving is very concerning and dangerous for many reasons, including that sleep deprivation:
- Slows reaction times;
- Impairs judgement and vision;
- Impairs performance; and
- Can have psychological and emotional effects, increasing moodiness and the risk of aggressive driving.
What Can Cause Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving, sleepiness, or fatigue can have many underlying causes – not getting enough sleep for a single night is not all that drowsy driving is limited to. Indeed, while too little sleep is definitely an issue, interrupted sleep, chronically failing to get enough sleep, sleep disorders (like sleep apnea), using certain medications that cause drowsiness, using alcohol, and maintaining a schedule that affects circadian rhythm (such as working the graveyard shift) can all cause drowsiness.
You should never operate a vehicle while fatigued. If you have not been sleeping well or feel tired, or have taken a medication–even an over-the-counter-medication–that lists drowsiness as a side effect, you should get a ride from someone else or use public transportation.
Who’s Most at Risk of Driving While Drowsy?
Statistics show that some people are more likely than others to drive while drowsy. These people include:
- Commercial drivers, including the drivers of trucks, buses, and tractor trailers;
- Shift workers, particularly those who work night shifts or long shifts;
- Drivers who use medications that cause sleepiness; and
- Any driver who does not get enough sleep.
Drowsy driving is a huge problem in America. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares that one out of every 25 adults drivers have reported falling asleep at least once behind the wheel in the past 30 days, and that over the course of a single year, drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes.
Liability for a Drowsy Driving Crash
Many people think that because drowsy driving is not against the law, if they are involved in a crash that is caused by a drowsy driver’s fault, they have no legal basis to bring forth a claim. However, this is not the case; an action does not have to be illegal to be characterized as negligent.
Negligence is the failure to act with a reasonable degree of care, and is the basis on which most personal injury and car accident claims are filed. Because fatigue impairs judgement and reaction time (and has other effects, as mentioned above), operating a motor vehicle while fatigued can indeed be classified as negligent. This means that if you can prove that your car accident would not have occurred but for the actions of a drowsy driver, you can hold them liable for damages that you suffer.
In order to prove drowsiness and negligence, a thorough investigation may be necessary. Witness testimony, police reports, and any video footage can be essential. Statements from the at-fault driver’s family or doctor regarding the driver’s sleepiness, sleep-inducing medications, or sleep disorder may all prove valuable as well.
Advocating for You After a Drowsy Driving Crash
Unlike things like adverse weather or an animal darting into the road, car accidents that occur as a result of drowsy driving are something that can be prevented. Indeed, a drowsy driving car accident never has to happen – when people are fatigued or impaired, they should not get behind the wheel.
In the event that a drowsy driver does cause a crash and you suffer injuries, our experienced car accident attorneys serving South Carolina know what to do. We will investigate your claim, talk with insurance adjusters, and determine the value of damages you have suffered. If fault is disputed, we can hire experts to help build your claim and add clout to your argument, and we will return to the negotiation table as many times as it takes to get you the settlement you deserve. We are also able to litigate your case in court if we need to.
To learn more about our legal services and steps to take after an accident with a drowsy driver, call our law firm today or send us a brief message with the details of your case using our online form. Consultations with our law firm are free.