Fatigue is an issue that can affect any driver. Any person who is physically exhausted, lacking sleep, or under the influence of medication could potentially become drowsy while behind the wheel. Drowsy divers who are nodding off at the wheel have impaired judgment and delayed reaction times. They are at greater risk of failing to recognize crash situations.
Drowsy driving accidents can occur at any hour, but they happen most often between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon. Drowsy drivers present a serious risk to other motorists in Kentucky. If you have suffered severe injuries or your loved one has been killed in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, you could be entitled to compensation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 2 percent of all traffic crashes involve driver fatigue. Those figures may actually be too low. In a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 41 percent of drivers admitted to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point in their lives.
Drivers are responsible for knowing their capabilities and limits. If they exceed those limits and cause an accident because they were driving while fatigued, they should be held responsible.
The personal injury attorneys at Becker Law Office demand full compensation for people who have been harmed by drowsy drivers and drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel. Our attorneys have been standing up for accident victims in Kentucky for more than three decades. We are a team of skilled negotiators who seek to reach top-dollar settlements for clients without going to trial. Becker Law Office has office locations in Louisville, Lexington, and Florence. Call us today at (502) 581-1122 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options with one of our experienced drowsy driving accident attorneys.
How Fatigue Causes Car Accidents
If pressed, many drivers would admit to having experienced one or more signs of fatigued driving at some point in their lives. These signs include:
- Frequent yawning or blinking
- Drifting from the traffic lane
- Hitting a rumble strip
- Missing an exit
- Having difficulty remembering the last few miles driven
Fatigue slows reaction time. It makes drivers less attentive and impairs decision-making skills.
When a driver feels fatigued, drowsy or sleepy, the responsible thing to do is to stop and rest. Turning up the radio, opening the window and turning up the air conditioner do not effectively counter driver fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What Drivers are at Risk of Drowsy Driving Accidents?
Commercial truck drivers are among the drivers frequently involved in drowsy driving crashes. Truck drivers operating commercial vehicles spend many hours behind the wheel and frequently are under pressure to get their deliveries to destinations as quickly as possible.
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) conducted by the NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered fatigued at the time of their crashes. To address the problem, federal rules known as Hours of Service Limits restrict the number of hours per day and per week that long-haul truck drivers can drive without rest breaks or a day off.
Truck drivers are far from being the only people affected by fatigue. Younger drivers who are more likely to have erratic sleep schedules are also more likely to drive when fatigued and are susceptible to drowsy driving accidents. Shift workers such as hospital employees and emergency responders who have alternating day and night work schedules are also at elevated risk of drowsy driving crashes. In general, most people who are active before getting into a vehicle will have some exhaustion set in and must be mindful of the effects their fatigue can have on their driving performance.
Drivers more likely to be fatigued include:
- Drivers who work long shifts or at night
- Truck drivers and other commercial drivers
- Students who also have part-time or full-time jobs
- Drivers who take sedating medications
- Drivers who have untreated sleep disorders
Car accidents caused by fatigued driving often involve the vehicle going off the road or out of its lane. This leaves no evidence of braking or swerving to prevent the crash, the NHTSA says.
In some cases, a fatigued driver drifts. Upon catching himself or herself, the driver can become startled and overcorrects – only to drive into the path of another vehicle.
Driver fatigue often is involved in rear-end and head-on collisions. Also, because the inattentive driver fails to brake or swerve prior to a collision, fatigued driving crashes tend to occur at full speed. They are more likely to result in injuries and fatalities than non-drowsy driving crashes.
Demonstrating Driver Fatigue After a Car Accident
In an investigation of your accident, Becker Law Office would seek to determine whether driver fatigue played a role in your accident. Evidence may include:
- Cell phone data showing a long period of activity or activity over a large geographic area
- School and/or work attendance records
- Receipts from stores, gas pumps or ATMs
- Prescriptions for drugs that cause drowsiness (or receipts for over-the-counter drugs)
Crash scene evidence may also indicate fatigued driving. Signs may include lack of braking or crossing the centerline. A newer-model car might have an electronic data recorder, or “black box.” This data would show the car’s speed, lack of braking, trajectory and other information.
Passenger Claims in Accidents caused by Drowsy Driving
Witness statements about a driver’s activity and demeanor prior to an accident would also be important evidence in an investigation. This might include passengers in the fatigued driver’s car, who would also have a legal claim if they were injured.
It is important to understand that compensation for those injured in a car accident comes from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Injured passengers should not be reluctant to seek the compensation they deserve through a claim against possibly a friend or co-worker.
How Common is Drowsy Driving in Kentucky?
Accidents caused by drowsy driving occur all too often in Kentucky, unfortunately. A fact sheet from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet states that there were 2,232 crashes involving driver fatigue that caused 1,201 injuries and 27 fatalities in Kentucky in a recent year. The actual number of fatigued driving accidents in Kentucky is likely higher based on research findings.
A 2018 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drowsy driving was a factor in eight times as many accidents as federal crash statistics suggested. Using cameras in vehicles to monitor drivers, the researchers found that motorists nodded off at alarming rates before crashes. Drowsiness was a factor in about 9.5 percent of crashes and a key factor in 10.8 percent of accidents resulting in serious property damage.
The National Sleep Foundation states that drowsy driving is dangerous because a lack of adequate sleep can have effects on the body similar to the effects of alcohol consumption. According to the Foundation, being awake for 18 hours straight is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, while a driver awake for a full 24 hours will have impaired reactions similar to a driver who is legally intoxicated.
But unlike drunk driving, there is no comparable field test to screen for drowsy drivers. Police often have difficulty determining whether drowsy driving was a contributing factor in a crash unless the driver admits that he or she fell asleep. Many drivers do not admit that they were drowsy or nodding off, leading to an undercount of the number of drowsy driving-related crashes.
How to Prevent Falling Asleep At The Wheel
The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. You should try to aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep at night.
When you are making a long drive and have multiple people in the car, try to take turns driving. When one person has been driving for a few hours, let them take a break and have a more rested driver take over.
If alone, try to take breaks every few hours or after a certain number of miles.
You should generally try to avoid driving during hours when you would normally be sleeping. You definitely want to avoid consuming alcohol or medications that can make you drowsy. You should try to consume caffeine, such as soda or coffee, which may raise your level of alertness.
Pay attention for signs of drowsy driving in yourself. Common symptoms include heavy eyelids, blinking, frequent yawning, drifting from your lane, or missing certain turns. If you notice yourself displaying these symptoms, pull over and rest.
How an Attorney Can Help After A Drowsy Driving Accident
While drowsy driving may have an impact similar to drunk driving, it does not involve the same trail of evidence that can be used to prove an offense. A driver who may have been fatigued may quickly regain some alertness when dealing with police. The insurance company for the drowsy driver may dispute the accident claim and try to shift the blame to you.
Commercial truck drivers are required to keep logbooks that record their hours of driving and rest breaks. Log books are commonly falsified after crashes, so it is critical to get a lawyer involved as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney will know how to identify evidence to show the other driver may have been dangerously fatigued or fallen asleep at the wheel and caused a crash.
Police reports could contain certain evidence associated with drowsy driving, such as a driver’s complete failure to stop before a collision and lack of skid marks at the scene of a crash. A motorist’s cell phone records also may be used to demonstrate how far the driver had traveled without taking a break. Meal or toll receipts or witness testimony also may be valuable.
A drowsy driving accident lawyer at Becker Law Office will seek evidence to support a civil claim showing the other driver’s negligence. A successful lawsuit requires a victim to prove four elements of a negligence claim by a preponderance of the evidence. The four requirements are that the negligent driver had a duty of care to the victim to drive in a safe and lawful manner, the negligent driver violated their legal responsibility by driving while fatigued, the decision to drive fatigued caused the accident and the accident resulted in the victim’s injuries.
A victim injured by a drowsy driver may demand compensation for medical bills, lost income and other expenses related to the injury. Compensatory damages are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are financial losses a victim has incurred or will incur such as medical bills, lost income, and car damage. Noneconomic damages refer to more subjective losses that are harder to quantify such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
Contact Our Kentucky Drowsy Driving Law Firm Today
Did you sustain catastrophic injuries or was your loved one killed in an accident caused by a fatigued driver in Kentucky? Do not underestimate the importance of legal counsel for handling your injury claim.
Our attorneys at Becker Law Office can conduct an independent investigation of your crash to determine the exact cause and whether drowsy driving was a contributing factor. When an accident was caused by drowsy driving, our attorneys will seek to preserve whatever evidence may be available to prove this.
If you have been offered a settlement by an insurance company representing another driver, it is important to consult a knowledgeable attorney before agreeing to the settlement. Insurance companies often make low-ball settlement offers to limit their liability and close a case quickly. Insurers often pressure people into accepting these settlements by convincing them that they will be able to keep more money for themselves—which could not be further from the truth.
Becker Law Office are experienced at negotiating with insurance companies and demanding top-dollar settlements. We will fight to help you get every dollar of compensation you are entitled to by law. Call (502) 581-1122 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.