Everyone needs sleep — especially if they’re going to be driving. But unfortunately, drowsy driving is a serious threat to Georgia motorists. The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University estimates that one out of every five serious motor vehicle wrecks involves a sleepy driver. Of those crashes, 7,500 people are killed and 50,000 are injured.
In addition, nearly a quarter of Americans admit to having driven while struggling to keep their eyes open, according to a recent AAA survey.
When fatigued drivers cause accidents that hurt others, Georgia law states that they may be held accountable for any injuries and damages they cause. This is accomplished by filing a personal injury claim for compensation against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A successful outcome can include money to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver, contact The Champion Firm, P.C. today. You’ll meet with an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney who will listen to your story and discuss all of your legal options. All initial case reviews are free, with no strings attached.
Call or contact us now to arrange your free consultation.
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Sleep deprivation greatly increases the chances of being in a drowsy driving accident. Drivers who get less than seven hours of sleep the night before driving are twice as likely to cause a motor vehicle accident, data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows. Drivers are four to five times as likely to cause a crash with less than five hours of sleep the prior night, according to the statistics.
Other research shows that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A study in the journal Addiction shows that drivers who drink begin showing signs of impairment with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05. When it comes to fatigue, The Sleep Foundation has found that people who stay awake for 18 hours also drive like they have a BAC of 0.05. At 24 hours awake, drivers suffer from an impairment equal to a driver with a BAC of 0.10, well above the legal limit in Georgia.
Signs of drowsy driving mimic those of drunk driving. Both types of drivers have slower reaction times, impaired motor skills, poor judgment and difficulty with information processing. Fatigued drivers also exhibit a greater tendency towards more aggressive driving behaviors.
What Makes People Drowsy When Driving?
There are many reasons why people may be tired behind the wheel, such as:
- Sleep loss: Adults should get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Missing out on even one hour of recommended sleep over an extended period of time can lead to a person suffering a “sleep debt” that can induce chronic sleepiness throughout the day.
- Sleep fragmentation: If a person’s sleep cycle is disrupted, it can lead to drowsiness during the day, even if he or she got the full recommended seven to eight hours per night.
- Disrupted circadian rhythm: People have a natural circadian rhythm that induces sleepiness during the late afternoon or early evening hours in preparation for sleep at night. These patterns may be disrupted for a variety of reasons, such as when people are required to work night shifts or suffer from sleep disorders, causing chronic drowsiness.
- Medication use: Certain medications list fatigue as a side effect. Using these medications may cause a driver to get behind the wheel while drowsy, sometimes without even realizing it.
- Alcohol and drug use: The use of depressants such as alcohol or other narcotics can induce feelings of fatigue and drowsiness in drivers.
- Sleep disorders: Drivers may experience chronic fatigue due to various sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, sleepwalking, or narcolepsy.
Although life circumstances (such as a medical condition or caring for a newborn baby) may make it difficult for people to get the best quality sleep every night, drivers may still be held responsible if their actions cause a fatigue-related crash.
Investigating a Drowsy Driving Car Accident
If you suspect your injuries were caused by a drowsy driver, you’ll need evidence to support your claims. Because fatigued driving is considered one of the most underreported causes of traffic accidents, it’s smart to consult a skilled car accident lawyer at The Champion Firm right away. We know what it takes to build a strong claim for compensation from drowsy driving accidents.
Examples of potential evidence include:
- The police accident report: The officer who drafts the accident report may note signs of drowsiness or fatigue in the other driver, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or impaired reflexes or motor skills that cannot be explained through DUI tests. Drivers may even admit to falling asleep behind the wheel.
- The at-fault driver’s toxicology report: If the other driver undergoes an alcohol and/or drug test, it may reveal intoxication that could explain his or her drowsiness. Alternatively, it could show no signs of substances in the bloodstream, which may indicate that his or her symptoms of impairment could be caused by fatigue.
- Eyewitness statements: Witnesses to the crash may report that the other driver exhibited signs of drowsiness behind the wheel, including weaving, an inability to stay within traffic lanes, and/or the inability to maintain speed. Passengers may also have noticed signs of driver fatigue.
- Surveillance or dashcam video: If there were no eyewitnesses to the accident, nearby surveillance video or dashcam footage may show drowsy driving behaviors exhibited by the at-fault driver.
- Cell phone logs: A review of cell phone records may show that the driver was on the road for long stretches of time without stopping.
When to Contact a Lawyer After a Drowsy Driving Accident
If you’ve been the victim of an accident caused by a fatigued driver, you should contact a car accident attorney as quickly as possible. All motor vehicle crashes need to be investigated thoroughly, but drowsy driving accidents can be complicated. Getting started right away will help your legal team gather evidence before it is erased and talk to witnesses while their memories are fresh.
It’s also important to speak with a lawyer swiftly because insurance adjusters will start calling soon after your accident. They may try to offer you a quick settlement to resolve the claim. It’s guaranteed the amount will be far less than what you deserve. A lawyer from The Champion Firm can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf, aggressively negotiating for a settlement offer that fully and fairly compensates you for your physical, financial, and emotional losses.
How to Avoid Fatigued Driving Accidents
You can do your part to avoid a drowsy driving accident by never getting behind the wheel while fatigued. Look out for signs of tiredness, including:
- Frequent yawning
- Heavy eyelids
- Increased eye blinking
- Head nodding
- Trouble thinking or concentrating
You should be especially vigilant for these signs late at night or very early in the morning. Our bodies are biologically programmed to be sleepier around those times. You should also be watchful when you have been driving for long periods of time, if you are using medication that has sedative effects, or if you suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or narcolepsy.
If at any point you feel fatigued or drowsy while driving, you should pull off the road as soon as it is safe to do so.
Look out for other drivers on the road who may be showing signs of drowsy driving, such as:
- Driving far below the speed limit
- Inability to maintain a steady speed
- Weaving or veering out of traffic lanes
- Frequent and unnecessary braking
If you suspect another vehicle has a drowsy driver, don’t try to pass the car or get his or her attention. Instead, you should safely pull off the road, let the driver pass, and contact the police to alert them of the possibility of a dangerous driver.
How Can The Champion Firm, P.C. Help Me?
The car accident attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. will fight for the financial compensation you need and deserve if you’ve been hurt in a drowsy driving crash in Atlanta. Our law firm can help maximize the value of your case by:
- Investigating your accident to identify the party(s) at fault
- Identifying all potential avenues of compensation for you
- Working with experts to help build an effective and persuasive legal case
- Aggressively negotiating with the insurance companies for you
- Preparing your case for trial (if necessary)
Looking for a knowledgeable, dedicated Atlanta car accident lawyer? Turn to The Champion Firm, P.C. to get comprehensive and compassionate legal help. We’re ready to get you back on your feet again.
Call us today to arrange your free consultation.