Nationwide, drowsy driving may cause as many as one in five car crash fatalities, according to a recent report.
The Governors Highway Safety Association says that an estimated 83.6 million Americans get behind the wheel every day, even though they are dangerously fatigued. Industry experts, insurance company experts, and other professionals all collaborated on the 73-page study. In addition to the side-effects of drowsy driving, which include inattention, slow reaction time, and reduced decision-making ability, the report examined best practices for dealing with the problem, like the protocols that exist in Utah, Texas, and New York. Study authors were especially critical of commercial truck driver rules. Although the federal government has established limits for weekly hours of service, “repeated efforts to modify HOS regulations have resulted in the suspension of some provisions.” Additionally, the rules may be too generic to be effective, the report added.
In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed its definition of “impaired driving” to include drowsy driving along with alcohol, drugs, and distraction.
Non-Commercial Drowsy Driving
The above statistics are probably understated, because some law enforcement agencies don’t even have a code for “fatigued driving” in their crash reports. While the raw numbers are unknown, the effects of drowsy driving have been well-documented. For example; driving while being awake for 18 consecutive hours is the equivalent of driving with a .08 BAC, which is the legal definition of intoxication in Louisiana.
Furthermore, since alcohol impairment begins at one drink, fatigue impairment begins much sooner as well. In practical terms, a driver who puts in a long day at the office or who stops for dinner with friends after work should probably not drive home.
Commercial Drowsy Driving
People who work odd shifts are particularly at risk for drowsy driving, especially if they recently changed schedules. Tour bus drivers often fall into this category, because they often drive during the early morning or overnight hours to either ferry passengers to their destination or get them home. The same thing is true of long-haul truck drivers. Some shipping companies still pay their drivers by the load instead of by the hour or mile, which encourages them to push the limits of HOS restrictions.
Tour bus operators and long-haul truckers are common carriers, which means that a higher duty of care applies. This duty not only prohibits commercial drivers from taking HOS shortcuts, but also means that they must be even more rested than non-commercial operators. So, seemingly innocuous questions like “what time did you go to sleep the night before the crash” or “what time did you get up the morning of the crash” are often highly relevant to a possible breach of duty.
Drowsy drivers cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with a zealous personal injury lawyer in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. An attorney can arrange ongoing medical care for victims, even if they have no money and no insurance.