Though it may come as a surprise, many studies have found that drowsy driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving. Drowsy drivers are responsible for a significant percentage of car accidents around the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there are about 56,000 crashes, 40,000 personal injuries, and 1,550 fatalities each year attributed to drowsy driving.
Sleepy drivers who get behind the wheel are committing a negligent, if not reckless act. They put not only their own lives at risk, but also the lives of many others around them. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by drowsy driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm provide aggressive representation to those who have been injured by the negligence or recklessness of others. We have the experience and skill to hold third parties responsible and get you the compensation you deserve. Call (215) 274-0072 today for a free consultation with one of our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys.
Drowsy vs. Intoxicated Driving
Well before a person actually falls asleep while driving, lapses in attention and slowed reaction times make drowsy driving very dangerous. Driving is a complex activity that requires intense focus and sharp decision-making. Even if you’re technically awake, your brain is not functioning at the capacity necessary to handle these decisions. Studies show that excessive sleepiness decreases our judgment and increases risk taking.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), driving while sleep-deprived can have similar effects on the body as consuming alcohol. Staying awake for 18 hours straight can cause you to drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05, whereas staying awake for a full 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .10, over the legal driving limit of .08.
Drowsy driving is, in some ways, even more harmful than drunk driving. The distinction may lie in the fact that drunk drivers know what they’re doing is dangerous, while drowsy drivers may think that they are simply working hard. A drowsy driver can easily nod off while still speeding, forget to break, or have significantly decreased reaction times.
Risks and Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Any driver can be at risk for drowsy driving. Causes can be as benign as working late or not getting enough sleep. There are some drivers, however, who seem to be more at risk for driving while fatigued. These individuals should take precautions to avoid driving while fatigued, and include:
- Night shift workers
- Truck drivers
- Workers who regularly work overtime
- Drivers taking sedating medications
- Younger, less experienced drivers
- Drivers suffering from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea
There are several indicators of drowsy driving to be aware of as well, including:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
Consequences of Drowsy Driving in Philadelphia
Lack of sleep impairs judgement, so drowsy drivers are at a high risk for causing car accidents. NHTSA conducted a study which found that the critical aspects of driving impairment associated with sleeplessness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing. Fatigue and sleeplessness can be so powerful that it may be impossible for drowsy drivers to resist falling asleep at the wheel.
The NHTSA reports that drowsy driving accidents can typically be identified by the following characteristics:
- The crash happens after midnight or at mid-afternoon
- The driver does not attempt to avoid the crash
- The crash is likely to be serious
- The crash occurs on a high-speed road
- A single vehicle runs off of the roadway
- The driver is alone in the vehicle
A lack of concentration can cause a serious accident resulting in catastrophic injury to others. As detailed above, the NSF believes that, because a driver who has fallen asleep has no ability to avoid an accident, they actually pose more of a threat than a drunk driver.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
The NSF sets forth a list of ways to avoid a drowsy driving accident and ensure that the mind and body are at their optimal level for safe driving. Other than getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep, drivers can try:
- The pre-drive nap. Taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night’s sleep.
- The mid-drive nap. If you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you’ll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
- The buddy system. It’s safest to drive with a partner on long trips. Pull over every two hours and switch drivers, while the other takes a nap if possible.
Other tips to reduce the risk of a drowsy driving accident include the following:
- Don’t rush. It is better to arrive at your destination safe than on time.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Even very small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.
- Don’t drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body’s biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is more intense.
- Drink caffeine. Caffeine improves alertness, although the effects of the caffeine will wear off after several hours.
It’s important to remember that getting adequate sleep is the most effective way to prevent drowsy driving, and the above methods should be used only when it is absolutely necessary to drive.
Steps to Take After a Drowsy Driving Car Accident in Philadelphia
Taking the proper steps after getting into a car accident is essential to improve your chances of recovering the compensation you deserve. Make sure to do all of the following in as timely a manner as possible:
- Take pictures of the car accident scene, including all vehicles involved and the damage to your car.
- Seek medical treatment for injuries to identify any conditions, such as whiplash and other soft tissue injuries, that may not become symptomatic until after the accident.
- Document medical expenses, including medical bills, prescription costs, and insurance co-pays. Out-of-pocket expenses related to medical care for your car accident injuries may be covered in some cases as well.
- Review your insurance coverage, including the exclusions section, so you have a clear understanding of your coverage. Check for additional coverage under other insurance policies, such as homeowner and “umbrella” policies.
- Document conversations with the insurance company, including writing down names, phone numbers and job titles of the people with whom you speak. Keep track of call times, subject matter, and important information during phone calls.
- Request medical records that are useful to prove injuries and preexisting conditions that may have been aggravated by the accident.
- Keep records of all accident-related items, including injuries and other related conversations, paperwork, and expenses.
Maintaining records and keeping everything organized is useful for any claims or lawsuits that result. It’s also a good idea to request multiple copies of documents for your attorney.
Should I Contact a Lawyer After a Drowsy Driving Crash in Philadelphia?
After being involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to know when to turn an attorney for legal help. Your insurance company may able to handle the case, but it is nevertheless prudent to seek the legal advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. The following questions may help you determine if you need a lawyer:
- Are you uninsured, or has your insurance company stated you were delinquent on your last premium payment?
- Did a serious injury that required hospitalization or surgery occur?
- Did a permanent injury such as paralysis or amputation occur?
- Did the car accident involve pedestrians, cyclists, or multiple cars?
- Is there a dispute as to who is at fault for the car accident?
- Is the insurance company giving you trouble, or have they involved their own lawyers on your case?
- Did the accident occur in a construction area?
- Does the police report inaccurately reflect how the car accident occurred and put you at fault?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is probably in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney.
Drivers who get behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive carefully should be held responsible when their carelessness results in accidents that injure third parties. Those who are hurt because another driver falls asleep at the wheel have a right to pursue compensation. If someone is killed in a wreck or collision caused by fatigued driving, the surviving family members can pursue a claim for wrongful death against the drowsy driver.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Drowsy Driving Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident attributed to drowsy driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. An experienced Philadelphia drowsy driving attorney can provide the resources needed to protect your rights.
The personal injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm have decades of experience fighting for those who have been hurt by the negligence of others. Our attorneys are committed to aggressively pursuing the maximum compensation while ensuring that responsible parties are held accountable. We may be able to fight on your behalf to help you recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call (215) 274-0072 today for a free consultation with a Philadelphia personal injury attorney to learn what your case might be worth.