While drunk driving causes many traffic-related fatalities, fatigued drivers can pose almost as much of a threat to other motorists traveling Florida highways. Moreover, the sedative effect of alcohol constitutes a reason that many drunk drivers end up slamming into other vehicles or objects. In this blog, we examine the special challenges that face Florida car accident victims injured by overtired and fatigued drivers.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals the scope of the drowsy driving problem. The NHTSA reports that over-tired drivers accounted for 795 deaths, 50,000 injuries and 91,000 collisions during a recent 12-month period. These statistics probably understate the drowsy driving problem considerably because no easy method exists to identify sleep deprived drivers. Further, drowsy drivers have little incentive to admit to exhaustion after being pulled over for a driving violation or being involved in a collision.
While intoxicated motorists receive more media attention, lack of sleep can have a comparably disruptive impact on driving skills. Multiple studies have demonstrated the similarities between drowsy drivers and motorists affected by alcohol. According to one study, a driver deprived of sleep for 17-19 hours exhibited performance on driving skills tests comparable to a motorist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent. After 20 hours without sleep, drivers exhibited impaired driving skills equivalent to a motorist with a .08 BAC, the current legal limit in all fifty states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.).
While the above study focused on relatively long periods without sleep, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study indicates even slight sleep deprivation significantly increases the risk of being involved in a car accident. Individuals who only got between six and seven hours a night of sleep were twice as likely to be involved in a traffic accident. The risk doubled again for drivers who did not get at least 5 hours of sleep a night.
Drowsy driving can be caused by several factors, such as:
- Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia
- Use of prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Driving after consuming illicit drugs or alcohol
- Lack of time because of work, family, or other obligations
While fatigued or tired drivers who violate traffic safety laws or otherwise engage in unsafe driving practices can be liable to accident victims, these cases can be more difficult to pursue than drunk driving cases. Law enforcement officers can administer both field sobriety tests and chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine to identify drunk drivers. By contrast, law enforcement officers cannot administer a test to identify motorist too sleepy to safely operate a motor vehicle. Further, most states do not have laws that specifically address drowsy driving while every U.S. state prohibits drunk driving.
Experienced drowsy driving accident lawyers have the expertise to identify the types of evidence that can reveal a sleep-deprived driver. Attorneys also can use investigators to collect evidence at an accident scene that might provide proof that drowsy driving caused a collision. For example, the absence of skid marks might provide evidence that the driver was overly fatigued or fell asleep at the wheel. The “black box” from the drowsy driver’s vehicle also might furnish valuable evidence. Analysis of the recorded data could reveal the motorist failed maintain an upright sitting position or failed to prevent the vehicle from drifting out of its lane.
Additional evidence that an experienced attorney might rely on to build a claim based on drowsy driving could include traffic camera footage. witness statements and/or the at-fault driver’s work records. Witnesses or traffic cameras might reveal a driver’s head dropping as a driver nods off behind the wheel or a vehicle swerving back and forth across the lines demarking a lane.
Because of challenges in proving sleep deprivation, car accident victims injured by drowsy drivers in Florida can benefit from talking with an experienced attorney.
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