Fatigued Drivers and What to Do About Them

We are all well aware of the dangers of drunk drivers, whose impairment can alter or take lives within seconds on the road. But there’s another type of impaired driver that is equally as dangerous and terrifying: fatigued drivers. 

The following research from the National Safety Council will illuminate just how dangerous fatigued driving really is:

Driving with sleep deprivation of 20 hours and above is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.8%, which is right at the legal limit in the United States. Yes, drowsiness from sleep deprivation can impair you just as much as alcohol can.  

20% of U.S. adults have admitted that they fell asleep behind the wheel at some point in the past year.

  • In 2015, there were 5,000 deaths associated with a fatigued driver.
  • You are three times more likely to get in a car accident if you are driving while fatigued.

Because of these startling statistics, it’s important to be hyper aware of fatigued drivers. They are around you on the road more often than you think. It’s also important that you take the necessary measures to ensure that you are well rested before you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Many fatigued drivers don’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong – perhaps they think they had a good night’s  rest the previous day but are still drowsy enough to fall asleep behind the wheel. This is why knowing the signs of a nearby fatigued driver, or if you are a fatigued driver yourself, is so imperative.

Why Is Fatigued Driving Dangerous?

Fatigued driving is dangerous because the body can’t operate accurately when it’s sleep deprived. Think back to the last time you hadn’t slept for a while. It is far harder to remember things, concentrate, or logically assess what is right in front of you.It poses a major danger to the other drivers on the road. Common accidents from drowsy drivers include veering off the road, veering into other cars, running red lights, or going the wrong way on the road. Much of this veering happens when drivers can’t keep their eyes open or are nodding off while continuing to drive. Some drivers entirely fall asleep at the wheel, and can wake up when their car lands in a ditch or crashes into something off the side of the road.

Signs of A Fatigued Driver

It’s important to recognize the signs of a fatigued driver if you are getting into the car with one, or watching one get into their own car to drive. Drowsy drivers tend to blink frequently and can’t stop yawning. They may appear to have glazed over eyes as they stare at the road, and may completely miss exits or turns that they are supposed to take.Other signs include slow reaction time, such as taking a long time to cross an intersection when the light turns green or taking last minute action with steering or braking.  

Although some cars have integrated technology to vibrate the steering wheel in the case of lane veering, many fatigued drivers will start to drift off the road or into other lanes. Perhaps they have even expressly stated that they haven’t slept in many, many hours and are severely sleep deprived. It’s important to make the driver pull over if you’re in the car, or to not let them get in the car at all. Explaining to them the dangers and repercussions of drowsy driving can assist with this and save countless lives. 

If you’re on the road and a fatigued driver is near you, you’ll likely be able to tell because of this swaying action of the vehicle. If you see a car continuously coming into your lane and nearly hitting you, make sure to call the police to report it and move off to the side of the road until they have passed. Make sure to take notes of the car’s license plate, make, model, and color, so that they can be easily found and apprehended. Otherwise, they could hurt other drivers on the road. 

Signs That You Are Fatigued

It is very important to check in with yourself before hitting the road if you suspect you may be fatigued. If you are already tired and having a hard time keeping your eyes open, see if you can call a taxi or have a friend or family member pick you up. Do not risk getting behind the wheel in a state of fatigue. You will not ‘wake up’ just because you are operating a motor vehicle. 

If you are on the road and have been driving for a long time, look out for telltale signs of drowsiness. Daydreaming without concentrating on the road for long periods of time is a common symptom. Perhaps you suddenly ‘come to’ and realize your exit was three exits ago, or that you knew where you were initially but you are now lost. While it is normal to daydream while doing something subconscious like driving, your focus should always be on the road. Blacking out for long periods of time is extremely dangerous and a main cause of accidents..

If your eyes are starting to close while driving, pull over immediately. Stop the car if you have any sense of heaviness, or if you feel yourself starting to nod off. Excessive yawning, rapid blinking, and the uncomfortable feeling of exhaustion are all clear indicators that you should not be behind the wheel. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking a cup of coffee or if your destination is only a few miles away; accidents are three times more likely to happen while fatigued and the severity of this statistic must be addressed as such.

Maggie’s Law

When it comes to accidents associated with fatigued drivers; it’s important to note that according to Maggie’s Law, or the National Drowsy Driving Act of 2003, it is illegal to drive if it’s been over 24 hours since you last slept. Driving without sleep in the past 24 hours is considered a form of reckless driving. Iff it’s been that long and a car accident ensues that results in a death, it will count and be charged as a vehicular homicide – not an accident. This means that not having slept for over 24 hours when you are behind the wheel is a criminal offense, equatable to driving when you have had more than the legal limit of an alcoholic substance.

Maggie’s Law was named after a twenty year old college student, Maggie McDonnell, who was killed on the road by a driver who hadn’t slept for over 30 hours. He swerved over three lanes and hit her head on. Despite this horrific accident, there was no law in place at the time that made fatigued driving illegal. Although he had killed her as a result of his recklessness and impairment, his punishments included a short jail sentencing and a $200 fine. As a result, her mother, Carole McDonnell, then lobbied for a law in New Jersey that would make any driving without adequate sleep in the past 24 hours illegal. 

Legal Repercussions

If you have recently been in an automobile accident because of a drowsy driver, it’s imperative to contact an accident attorney as soon as possible. In the case of Maggie McDonnell’s accident, her killer admitted to not having slept in over thirty hours. Other drowsy drivers are far less likely to admit how long it’s been since they last slept. At marylandaccident.com/, we will investigate your case and the exact circumstances that led to an accident with a fatigued driver. Remember that this is equal in severity to a drunk driver – if you have been in an accident at the hand of a drowsy driver, it was their impairment and reckless behavior that caused damage to your vehicle and caused your injuries. Call us today to discuss your case.

Author Credits For Mr. Bruce Robinson

Mr. Bruce Robinson leads the firm of Robinson and Associates, which he opened over 25 years ago. Following his years of litigation in personal injury, murder, and automobile accidents, he also focuses on serving individuals who have been charged with alcohol-related offenses such as DWI and DUI’s. His firm additionally specializes in representation for personal injury, primarily for serious motor vehicle accident cases.

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