2018 Guide to Drowsy Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

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Drowsy or tired driving is one of the leading causes of car accident deaths in the country. In Pennsylvania in 2016, 2,625 car crashes were related to drowsy driving, 25 of which were fatal. This can be an even greater problem for commercial drivers, such as delivery drivers and truck drivers, who spend hours on the road each day.

These issues are often related to distracted driving and drunk driving, but tired driving is an issue all its own. In many cases, tired driving combines risks from both distracted and drunk driving, since physical exhaustion can distract you from driving and lower your ability to appreciate risks or react to dangers. Because of this, Pennsylvania has a few rules that affect tired driving. The Philadelphia car accident injuries at The Reiff Law Firm understand how these rules can become important if you or a loved one was injured in a drowsy driving car accident. For a free consultation on your car accident injury case, contact our law offices today at (215) 246-9000.

PA Tired Driving Laws

Pennsylvania does not have any specific statutes that address the issue of tired driving. In some states, there are statutes that have rules that automatically upgrade things to reckless driving, like driving after being awake for over 24 hours. Other states have rules that apply criminal penalties to cases where tired driving or impairment from fatigue are contributing causes of the car crash or vehicle death. Even though Pennsylvania does not have specific statutes on the books, there are other traffic laws and rules of the road that help fight drowsy driving.

First, PA’s careless driving statute could apply to tired driving cases. Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3714, it is illegal to drive in a way that involves “careless disregard for the safety of” others or their property. If a driver recognizes that they are tired and notice it impairing their ability to keep their eyes on the road or react quickly to situations, but continue to drive, they are clearly disregarding the safety of others.

This law goes even further, creating upgraded penalties for any harms caused while driving carelessly. Though the careless driving itself is illegal, there are added penalties if the careless driving results in injuries or death. In both cases, these involve fines added on to the careless driving penalties. There may also be other laws, like manslaughter or assault laws, that apply to these kinds of deaths or injuries.

A step up from careless driving under PA law is reckless driving. Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3736, it is illegal to drive with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety” of others or their property. Proving “willful or wanton disregard” in place of “careless disregard” for safety is more difficult, making tickets for this offense less common than for careless driving. Usually, reckless driving is more appropriate in cases where there are additional factors that make the driving even more dangerous. For instance, driving tired while also speeding, driving under the influence, sending text messages, or performing another risky activity could be excellent evidence to support a reckless driving ticket.

How Drowsy Driving Charges Affect an Injury Lawsuit

These laws are all traffic laws, meaning that a driver could face a traffic ticket if they commit the actions listed. If you were injured in a car accident or a loved one was killed, the last thing you might be concerned about is whether or not the driver got a ticket. However, these laws serve a much more important purpose regarding your personal injury case and can help make proving your case easier.

In most injury cases, you, as the victim, have the burden of producing evidence that shows the other driver was at-fault for the crash. This means showing that:

  1. The other driver owed you a duty (e.g. the duty to drive with reasonable care and skill);
  2. The other driver breached that duty (e.g. by failing to use the proper care and skill);
  3. The breach caused your injuries; and
  4. You suffered injuries the court can compensate (known as “damages”).

If you can prove these elements, you can usually win your case. However, accurately defining the duty and demonstrating how the other driver breached that duty can be difficult.

In cases where there is a traffic law on point, proving the case becomes easier. The rules of the road, such as the careless driving or reckless driving statutes, create bright-line rules that dictate what each driver’s duty is. In these cases, it becomes clear that every driver has a duty to drive in a way that does not carelessly, nor with willful or wanton disregard, put others at risk. By providing evidence that the other driver did these things, such as their conviction for the traffic ticket or testimony that they were tired and should have pulled over, you can use these laws to help prove your tired driving case.

PA Tired Driving Victim Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident involving tired or drowsy driving, talk to an attorney today. The Philadelphia tired driving lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm are available to file your car accident lawsuit and help you understand how PA’s tired driving laws might help you with your case. For a free consultation, contact our law offices today at (215) 246-9000.

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