Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

How Dangerous is Driver Fatigue?

How dangerous is driver fatigue? What happens when a drowsy driver gets behind the wheel? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that one in every twenty-five, or 4% of all drivers over the age of 18, fall asleep at the wheel each month. This makes driver fatigue as dangerous and common as drunk driving. When a drowsy driver gets on the road, they put themselves, other motorists, and pedestrians at risk of grievous harm and potentially death.

In 2013, 72,000 accidents that caused 44,000 injuries and 800 fatalities were attributed to driver fatigue. That number rose to 846 fatalities in 2014. The most recent data from 2016 shows that 803 drivers, pedestrians, and passengers were killed by driver fatigue. While the federal government estimates driver fatigue is a factor in 1-2% of accidents, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that roughly 9.5% of all accidents involve driver fatigue. If the crash is more severe, such as a paralyzing or fatality causing accident, that number may rise as high as 10.8%. In many cases, a 20 minute nap would be sufficient in reducing the risk of these accidents ever taking place.

There are many habits, behaviors, and actions that can cause drivers to become fatigued. Not getting sufficient sleep, driving for extended periods of time, and taking prescription medications are some of the most common causes of drowsy driving accidents. Sleep deprivation is a significant problem and the CDC estimates that less than 35% of drivers are getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Fatigued drivers have slower reflexes, reduced vision, limited short-term memory, and diminished concentration which limits their ability to operate a motor vehicle and navigate the road. These factors add up and make drowsy drivers 3.5 times more likely to cause an accident than drivers who are sufficiently rested and not under the influence of medication or health conditions.

Commercial truck drivers are at particular risk for suffering the effects of driver fatigue. Long hours, long stretches of featureless roadway, and the use of prescription medication can all cause fatigue. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2007 estimated that 18,000, or 13% of all commercial truck drivers involved in accidents were fatigued when the crash occurred. Due in part to the results of this study, regulations were introduced by the FMCSA that limit commercial truck drivers on how much they can drive. The rules require these drivers to limit their driving to no more than 11 hours per day following 10 consecutive hours of rest for cargo haulers, and 10 hours per day for bus drivers and others who transport passengers. The rules also require commercial drivers to take sufficient breaks including at least 8 hours per day in the sleeper berth or away from the vehicle.

While there are rules designed to reduce driver fatigue within the commercial trucking industry, no such rules exist for the general public who are allowed to make the decision whether it is safe to drive. Those who make the wrong decision can cause significant harm to themselves, their passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists. The cost is high and it is estimated that drowsy driving accidents in America came with a cost of $109 billion in 2010.

Brad Pistotnik Law represents clients in Olathe, Lawrence, Salina, Topeka, Eudora, Dodge City, Wichita, Coffeyville, Winfield, and elsewhere in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, and Illinois that are involved in drowsy driving accidents. When driver fatigue causes personal injuries and property damage, our office helps clients recover compensation to cover the expenses and inconveniences that the accident creates.

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