Each year, thousands of accidents are caused by fatigued drivers. NHTSA states that over 100,000 car accidents occur every year due to drowsiness and results in 40,000 injuries and 1400 deaths. It is also estimated that many car accidents due to fatigue go unreported. These sort of accidents are hard to keep track of because there is no surefire way of knowing when a driver is actually feeling drowsy. For instance, if a person is involved in a car accident, you cannot simply test for sleepiness like you would for intoxication. State reporting is also inconsistent due to varying procedures and minimal police training for such an act.

Driver fatigue can be very dangerous, especially during nighttime. However, the early hours of the morning and the middle of the afternoon are the peak times for fatigue accidents. Long drives on monotonous roads, such as motorways, are most likely to result in a driver falling asleep. Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities, or a combination of other factors.

Who’s at Risk for a Fatigue-Related Accident?

Accidents due to sleeplessness are much more common in younger people, especially men. According to a poll from NSF, adults between 18 and 29 are more likely to drive while feeling drowsy as compared to other groups. Compared to women, men are more likely to drive while drowsy and are almost twice as likely to fall asleep while driving.

Shift workers are also at a high risk for fatigue-related accidents. Most shift workers will suffer from some sort of sleep depravation or disturbances. People who work the night shift will typically get 1.5 fewer hours of sleep in 24 hours than those who work during the daytime. A shift such as a midnight to 8 a.m. can result in the greatest risk of sleep disruption and thus can lead to more vehicle accidents. Everyone has what is known as Circadian Rhythm. This is the body’s 24-hour body clock. It lets you know whether or not you are feeling fatigued. To get used to a sleeping pattern, it’s advised to go to bed each night at the same time, including your days off. It takes the body about 2-3 weeks to get used to a sleeping cycle.

What Causes Driver Fatigue?

The main causes of driver fatigue include

  • Lack of quality sleep. A myth about sleep is that to function normally, getting eight hours of sleep is important. The truth is, this varies for everyone. Some can get by with just four hours, while others may need at least ten to feel well rested.
  • The time of day. As stated earlier, everyone has a sleep cycle. Driving when you would normally be asleep is dangerous and can easily result in a fatigue-related accident.
  • length of time. Driving for long periods of time can be extremely tiring. It is best to take a break at some point.
  • sleeping disorders. A common disorder known as sleep apnea can greatly affect the quality of sleep someone gets. Sleep apnea is a condition where the breathing pattern is disrupted and doesn’t allow for a deep sleep.
Signs of fatigue may include yawning, sore eyes, delayed reactions, and day dreaming. It’s easy to see how drowsy driving can be so dangerous and not surprising at the amount of accidents that occur as a result. In extreme cases, “microsleeps” can occur behind the wheel. This is when the driver nods off into a light sleep that can last a few seconds to a few minutes.

Preventing Fatigue

  • Get quality sleep. A full night's rest is important when operating heavy machinery.
  • Do not travel over 10 hours at a time.
  • Take breaks.
  • Have someone else take over if you need to travel long distances.
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Avoid nighttime driving.

Be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. If possible, do not drive while your body is naturally drowsy, between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Driver drowsiness may impair a driver’s response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash. If you do become drowsy while driving, be sure to choose a safe place to pull over and rest.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident due to another driver’s fatigue, contact our office for a free consultation. Gary Heslin has over thirty years of experience helping accident victims recover their damages, lost wages, and medical expenses.

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