Falling Asleep at the Wheel—An Unfortunate Cause of Car Accidents
Falling asleep at the wheel might seem like an unlikely occurrence, but it is responsible for more car accidents than you might think. Most people take it for granted that they will remain awake while driving, resulting in severe and sometimes deadly crashes.
Unfortunately, since most drivers don’t think they will fall asleep while driving, they opt to get behind the wheel while they’re fatigued. Driving tired may not seem like a big deal, but the effects of fatigue can be similar to those of intoxication. Driving after being awake for more than 24-hours is tantamount to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is over the legal limit.
Fatigue-related crashes can be especially severe due to several unique factors. Most drivers who fall asleep at the wheel cannot hit the brakes before a collision and often accidentally accelerate, leading to high-speed and high-damage crashes.
Given that they may be fully asleep, fatigued drivers are often unable to swerve out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. Unfortunately, drowsy driving accidents often occur on highways at high speeds because there is little to keep the driver’s attention like turns, traffic lights, or stop signs.
Drowsy Driving is Becoming Increasingly Prevalent in Texas
Unfortunately, Texas reports higher rates of drowsy driving than any other state in America. In 2013, the CDC found that 4.2 percent of drivers in the United States had fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days. In Texas, 6.1 percent admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.
For this reason, drowsy driving-related incidents are on the rise. According to the National Sleep Foundation, tired drivers cause 100,000 accidents annually and are linked to an average of 70,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year.
Causes of Tired Driving
Aside from the obvious cause of a general lack of sleep, drowsy driving can be caused by:
- Sleep disorders
- Consistent drug or alcohol use, including over the counter or prescription medications
- Driving on rural roads for extended periods or driving unlit rural roads at night
- Driving for too long without taking breaks
- Taking on sole driving responsibilities while on a road trip or long drive
Fatigue is, unfortunately, ingrained in our daily lives, but some people may be more at risk of falling asleep while driving.
Truck drivers are at an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel, and their accidents have some of the most severe consequences. Other commercial drivers, late-night shift workers, and people with sleep disorders should also be mindful of their wakefulness before operating a vehicle.
Texas Drivers are Pushing the Limit
For whatever reason, Texas drivers are more likely to disregard the signs of fatigue and get behind the wheel. In 2016, over 1 in 5 fatigue-related driving fatalities in the United States occurred in Texas.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a driver should not be behind the wheel if they:
- Have difficulty focusing
- Have eyelids that feel heavy
- Frequently daydream or disconnect from their surroundings
- Are yawning or rubbing their eyes excessively
- Have trouble keeping their head up
- Begin straying from their lane
Getting behind the wheel while tired might seem minute, but it can carry devastating consequences. If you are exhibiting any of the signs of fatigue, consider pulling over and resting or opting for a taxi ride, if possible.
What to do if You’ve Been Injured in a Fatigue-related Accident
Proving the blame in a fatigue-related crash is not as black and white as it seems. It is impossible to retain physical evidence that a driver fell asleep, so you’ll need ironclad arguments to prove their guilt. With so little evidence, the guilty party can even try to pin the blame on you.
Since proving fatigued driving is slippery, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to plead your case is the best way to assure you walk away with compensation. Guilty parties often deny they fell asleep. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to scrutinize the evidence to make a case.
A key part of making a case for falling asleep at the wheel is speaking to witnesses. In Texas, it is illegal for a driver who witnessed a vehicle accident to leave the scene. A personal injury lawyer will consult with people on-site when the accident occurred or even people who engaged with the offender earlier that day. They can also examine the accident site for key evidence that can help your case.
A vehicle crash is often a traumatic experience, and the aftermath can be riddled with pain, anxiety, and panic. On top of trauma, vehicle accidents can lead to financial strain such as medical bills, job loss, or vehicle repair expenses. A personal injury lawyer can help you receive adequate compensation for your losses.