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Car Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue accidents are difficult to quantify because there is no drowsiness test comparable to blood alcohol testing for drunk drivers. Conservative estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) place fatigue-caused accidents at 100,000 a year, with 1,550 resulting deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in costs.

It is clear that drowsy drivers are a major problem on roads across the country and right here in Texas. These accidents are among the worst because drowsy drivers often fail to take any evasive actions such as braking or swerving.

Many crashes caused by drowsy driving involve just one vehicle. In these situations, passengers in the car may be entitled to seek compensation from the driver’s insurance. Drowsy driving can also cause serious multi-car crashes, particularly when a fatigued driver fails to brake when approaching a traffic jam or when a driver falls asleep and crosses the center line or median strip into oncoming traffic.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by driver fatigue, you should seek legal advice immediately – before you discuss the matter with an insurance adjuster and before signing any documents. Let the Dallas car accident attorneys at Kraft & Associates, P.C., advise you about your legal rights. We’re an established and professional law firm with friendly lawyers and staff who are easy to talk to. Please call us at (214) 999-9999 or contact us online.

Risk Factors for Drowsy Driving Accidents

NHTSA reports that a typical car accident caused by driver fatigue has the following characteristics:

  • A single vehicle departs the roadway.
  • The driver does not try to avoid the crash.
  • The crash happens on a high-speed road
  • The accident is likely to be serious.
  • The crash occurs during early morning, mid-afternoon or late-night hours.

While these may be the most common circumstances of accidents caused by driver fatigue, they can happen in virtually any setting.

NHTSA has isolated the following as factors that increase the risk of a car accident caused by driver fatigue:

  • Loss of sleep.
  • Sedating medications.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Unrecognized or untreated sleep disorders.
  • Driving between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Mid-afternoon driving (particularly for the elderly).
  • Driving a significant number of miles every year or a significant number of hours every day.
  • Driving for long time periods without a break.

Although no one is immune to drowsy driving, NHSTA has determined, based on crash report evidence and driver self-reports, that the following population groups have the greatest risk for drowsy driving car crashes:

  • Young people, particularly males, between the ages of 16 and 29.
  • Individuals with untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
  • Shift workers with interrupted sleep because of night shifts or irregular hours.

Sleep deprivation plays a major role in crashes caused by driver fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, motorists who get 8 hours of sleep or more are half as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident as those who get 6 or 7 hours. Individuals who get fewer than 5 hours a night increase their risk of an accident by 4 or 5 times.

Driving While Fatigued: A Widespread Problem

According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 71 percent of Americans adults drive a car on their commute to work. Of the adults surveyed, 27 percent admitted to driving to and from work while drowsy a few days every month. Another 12 percent stated that they drove in a fatigued condition a few days every week, and 4 percent admitted to driving drowsy every day or almost every day of the work week.

Most fatigued-driver crashes occur between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. Midnight to 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. are other time slots with lots of drowsy driving accidents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that out of approximately 150,000 adults surveyed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 4.2 percent admitted to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel within the previous 30 days.

Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue

All drivers owe a duty of reasonable care to other motorists. Drivers who violate that duty by driving while fatigued and causing an accident can be held accountable for the damage that results.

When a driver nods off at the wheel and causes an accident – although he or she may not be willing to admit being too tired – liability can often still be established. Our knowledgeable accident lawyers at Kraft & Associates, P.C., know how to find out what really happened in car accidents. We often work with investigators and accident reconstruction experts to demonstrate that fatigue on the part of another driver caused an accident.

In our thorough investigation of the facts, we may interview witnesses and examine the other driver’s work schedule and prescription drug use, for example. The reconstructionists we work with may be able to show that the brakes were not applied, the driver went off the road for no apparent reason, or other evidence of falling asleep at the wheel.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by someone else’s drowsy driving, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Please call Kraft & Associates, P.C., at (214) 999-9999, or you can send us an e-mail at kraftlaw@kraftlaw.com, or complete our online form for a free assessment of your case.

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