Dozing off while driving is a terrifying prospect, but the truth is that fatigue can be deadly even if you don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Several studies that compare the effects of drowsiness to intoxication have found that that drivers’ attention spans, decision-making skills, and reaction times are all affected similarly by lack of sleep as they are to alcohol.
While it's not a crime to drive while drowsy, tired drivers may be just as likely to cause accidents as drunk drivers—and they can also be held liable for their actions in an injury lawsuit.
Common Causes of Florida Drowsy Driving Accidents
Drowsy driving is a factor in thousands of accidents in the U.S. each year. A recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who sleep only six or seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a collision as those who sleep eight hours or more. Another study estimates that 1 in every 25 adult drivers falls asleep while driving at least once a month.
Drowsy driving risks only increase for drivers who:
- Have untreated sleep disorders. Many Americans suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia or chronic fatigue. A commonly-overlooked condition is sleep apnea, which causes a person to stop breathing several times during the night, interrupting normal sleep patterns.
- Perform shift work. People who work irregular hours or the night shift may not get enough rest in their off-hours, making them less alert than drivers whose schedules allow them to sleep through the night.
- Spend long hours behind the wheel. Commercial drivers who operate tractor trailers or buses, as well as people driving cross country on road trips, are at an increased risk of fatigued driving with each hour they pass behind the wheel.
- Take medications that cause drowsiness. Millions of people nationwide rely on medications to treat various health conditions—any one of which may cause drowsiness as a side effect.
- Drink alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the body and the brain, dulling the driver’s senses and causing a sleepy sensation. Even if a person is under the legal alcohol limit, one or two drinks can affect your ability to drive safely if you have to brake or steer suddenly.
Signs a Driver May Have Fallen Asleep Before a Crash
Victims have the right to collect payment for their medical expenses, lost income, out-of-pocket costs, and pain and suffering after another driver’s negligence causes an accident. While driving fatigued is a form of negligence, an individual will likely deny they were too tired to drive safely, and it will be up to you to prove that a reasonable driver wouldn't have gotten behind the wheel in that condition.
If you suspect that the person who struck you was too sleepy to drive safely, look for these common signs of drowsy driving after a crash:
- Physical symptoms. A driver who has red or bloodshot eyes, is confused or irritable, blinks frequently, or has difficulty remembering the events leading up to the crash may have been overtired.
- A blaring radio or open windows. These signs suggest the driver was aware of becoming drowsy but chose to keep driving, relying on sounds and rushing air to keep them alert instead of pulling over to rest.
- Erratic behavior. Tired drivers may drift in and out of their lanes, follow too closely, take an exit at the last minute, or roll over rumble strips on the side of the road before colliding with another vehicle.
- Failure to take evasive action. One of the reasons drowsiness is dangerous is because drivers are less likely to swerve or brake in the seconds before a crash, striking a pedestrian or vehicle with more force.
Our experienced personal injury attorney knows how to gather evidence to prove that an at-fault driver was drowsy, asleep at the wheel, or otherwise negligent in a crash. We also represent injury clients on a contingency-fee basis, fighting for the maximum amount of compensation available without collecting anything from you until your case is won. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation with our car accident team.