Drowsy Drivers
Truck at Sunset

When people are too tired to drive safely, they often don’t know it – or won’t admit it.

Driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding and distracted driving are all causes of catastrophic motor vehicle crashes. Drowsy driving is as well.

Dangerously Fatigued Truck Drivers

Over-the-road truck drivers are subject to federal Hours of Service Rules. These rules limit how many hours per day and per week a commercial truck driver can be behind the wheel.

In a rush to deliver cargo and then pick up another load, some truck drivers may ignore warning signs of dangerous fatigue. Fatigued truck drivers hauling thousands of pounds of cargo who lose focus or fall asleep can cause deadly, multiple-vehicle accidents.

Passenger car drivers are not subject to similar drowsy driving rules. But they too can cause fatal crashes when overly fatigued.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that fatigued drivers are three times more likely to crash, and that nearly 6,500 people die every year in the United Sates in crashes involving drowsy drivers.

Warning signs of drowsy driving, according to NSC, include:

  • Drifting out of your lane
  • Frequent yawning
  • Missing turns or road signs

In March the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the findings of its latest research on drowsy drivers (“Drowsiness and Decision Making During Long Drives: A Driving Simulation Study”).

Drivers Unaware Or Won’t Admit They Are Extremely Tired

The study involved participants using a driving simulator for about three hours – 150 miles of highway driving at a speed of 65 mph. They began driving either at 11 p.m. or 2:30 a.m. following a day without napping or caffeine.

Researchers gauged the drivers’ tiredness by examining videos of their eyes. They compared their findings with how the drivers said they felt.

The study concluded most drivers regularly underestimated how tired they were.

Three-quarters of the participants who said they felt a low level of drowsiness were actually moderately or highly drowsy, according to the scientific measurements. During levels of recorded high drowsiness – marked by closed eyes for at least 15 seconds – 25% of the drivers said they felt their level of drowsiness was actually low.

Every 20 minutes the drivers passed rest areas in their simulations and were offered the chance to stop and rest. About half of the participants never stopped during the three hours. Just under 40% of the participants stopped once and the remainder stopped twice.

More than 75% of those who said they felt extremely drowsy declined to take a break when offered the chance.

Less than half of all drivers – 40% – who stopped at least once said they did so because they were feeling sleepy. Other factors that the researchers observed, such as a loss of vehicle control, were rarely given by drivers as a reason for why they took a break.

Those who drink to excess and drive, drive over the speed limit, or text and drive are knowingly posing a danger to others. The same is true for those who ignore the danger signs of being too tired to drive safely, as they also can take innocent lives or cause critical injuries.

If you were seriously injured or a family member died in a crash caused by a driver behaving dangerously, an experienced personal injury attorney can pursue the just compensation you deserve.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog April 17, 2023.


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