You, like many people, may struggle to keep up with the demands of your personal and professional lives. With only 24 hours a day to spread between family, friends, and work or school obligations, you can easily fail to get enough sleep.
Unfortunately, if you get less than eight hours of sleep per night, you can suffer adverse effects on your physical and emotional health. You can also increase your risk of getting into a car accident.
What Is Drowsy Driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines drowsy driving as operating a motor vehicle while excessively tired or fatigued. It can include falling asleep at the wheel – or falling just short of reaching that point. The fatigue can result from a person’s failure to get adequate sleep. It can also be a side effect of medication.
The CDC reports that drowsy driving contributes each year to:
- 72,000 accidents
- 45,000 injuries
- 6,000 deaths.
The CDC states that the people most likely to be involved in drowsy driving accidents include:
- Commercial truck, bus, and taxi drivers
- Late night or overnight shift workers
- People with untreated sleep disorders
- Those on medications that cause tiredness as a side effect
- Anyone who gets less than six hours of sleep a night.
Warning signs that you may be too tired to drive include yawning excessively, missing exits and hitting rumble strips or drifting from your lane.
If you experience any of these signs while driving, you should change drivers immediately or pull over to a safe place and rest. Contrary to popular belief, turning up the radio or opening a window is unlikely to help.
Is Drowsy Driving As Dangerous As Drunk Driving?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that driving while drowsy causes 20 percent of fatal collisions each year in the U.S. Based on that statistic, drowsy driving can be considered just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Drowsiness, like drugs or alcohol, impairs drivers in many ways. It can:
- Slow reaction times and cause sluggish mental functioning
- Cause one’s attention to stray and overlook details
- Lead to poor judgment and decision making
- Diminish reasoning and a sense of right and wrong.
The NHTSA reports that drowsy drivers may be slower to notice and react to changes in traffic or obstacles in the road. They can also lose track of how fast they are traveling, struggle to navigate turns or mergers and fail to see traffic signals.
However, in contrast to drunk driving, drowsy driving is difficult to prove. No breath or blood test can reveal the amount of fatigue in a person’s system. You need to conduct a thorough investigation in order to determine the role of fatigue in a car accident.
Drowsy Driving Laws
Texas law punishes motorists who engage in reckless driving behavior or commit traffic violations. While fatigue may play a role in those offenses, no law in Texas specifically prohibits or punishes drowsy driving.
The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that lawmakers across the country are engaged in efforts to raise awareness of drowsy driving and to reduce these types of accidents.
However, to date, only a handful of laws in various states penalize drivers who endanger themselves and others by engaging in drowsy driving. Arkansas, Tennessee, New York, and New Jersey either classify drowsy driving as a separate offense or included it in their reckless driving statutes.
Recent legislative efforts in Texas include:
- HR 295 (2013) – This bill proposed the establishment of the Drowsy Driving Study Commission, which would study the effects of drowsy driving, propose legislation with appropriate sanctions and educate the public as to the potential dangers. The bill failed to pass and has yet to be reintroduced.
- HR 1389 (2016) – This bill proposed the establishment of November 6-12 as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.” The goal was to educate the public and raise awareness. This bill succeeded and allowed Texas to join efforts throughout the country being spearheaded by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and promoted through its website, org.
Even without a formal anti-drowsy driving law in place, motorists can still be held accountable if they cause a crash, injuries or death due to drowsy driving.
Fatal car accidents can lead to drivers being charged with vehicular homicide, while lawsuits can lead to compensation for those injured in these crashes or for the families of people killed in such crashes.
Our East Texas Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You
If you or someone you care about is involved in a drowsy driving accident, contact The Sloan Firm to get the professional legal help you need. As an active member of the East Texas community, we are here for you when trouble occurs. We can advise you on the best course of action to pursue the compensation you deserve. What matters to you, matters to us.
Call or reach our Longview office online today to request your free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers.