According to the National Sleep Foundation, 72,000 deaths every year in America are caused by drowsy driving accidents with drowsy driving often being compared to being similar to drink-driving. In fact, if you’ve been sleep deprived for over 24 hours, it’s comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 10!
So, if we all know that driving drowsy is so dangerous, why is it that according to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adult drivers admitted to having driven while feeling drowsy with more than 37% have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. It’s easy to understand if you drive for a living that feeling tired will be an inevitable part of your job, and as a trucker, in particular, your livelihood is based on how far you drive every day.
Recent changes in the law in Arizona have meant that regulations on professional drivers such as truckers have been introduced to help prevent further accidents being caused by sleepy drivers.
The injury attorneys at Thompson Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have been in a drowsy driving accident. Our offices are conveniently located in Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people.
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What Constitutes as Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving by definition is feeling very tired and sleepy at the wheel. It’s often caused by concentrating when driving over a long period of time without breaks and can often lead to a collision or even worse. Some medications can cause drowsy side-effects so it’s important to check with your doctor if you are taking new medication. Other times, drowsy driving is simply caused by a driver not taking regular breaks, leading to their eyes feeling very heavy or even falling asleep at the wheel.
Is Drowsy Driving Considered Impaired?
While according to the law, drowsy driving isn’t considered the same as driving under the influence (in other words, if you do it, you won’t be charged with a DUI), it is recognized the drowsy driving is impaired driving. Driving when you are tired is almost as dangerous as driving drunk because fatigue slows your reaction time, impairs your judgement, and decreases your awareness to almost the same degree as if you were driving drunk.
What Causes Drowsy Driving, and Who is at Risk?
There are many causes of drowsy driving, but the most common (and common sense) reason is lack of sleep. Other contributing factors to drowsy driving include driving late at night (or whenever the driver normally sleeps), driving long stretches without taking breaks, driving alone, taking medication for which drowsiness is a side effect, and drinking alcohol.
The people who are most at risk for drowsy driving are commercial drivers. Truck drivers have regulations to make sure that they aren’t driving too long distances without breaks to stretch or for sleep. However, it is in the companies’ best interests to make sure that those breaks are kept to a minimum, so there is often a conflict between what the drivers are instructed to do verses the breaks they take in reality.
Other people who are at risk for drowsy driving are shift workers, people with untreated sleep disorders, and teenagers/ young adults. Many teenagers are more prone to drowsy driving because they stay up late, sleep less than they should, and drive more frequently at night.
What are the Warning Signs of Driver Fatigue?
Most drowsy driving accidents happen between 1-4 pm, and 2-6 am. Because your limbs relax when you fall asleep, many fatigued driver accidents occur at high speeds (from the driver’s foot relaxing on the gas) and can result in drivers running off the road, head on crashes, or running into stationary objects. Some of the warning signs of driver fatigue are:
- Inability to keep focus
- Inability to keep your head up
- Inability to focus your eyes
- Driving without remembering how you got there (driving on autopilot). A good way to test this is to ask whether or not the light you just passed was green and see if you remember, or what exit you last passed on the freeway.
- Drifting from one lane to another, tailgating, or missing traffic signs
- Noticing cars that appeared out of nowhere
How Can I Reduce Driver Fatigue?
There are a few ways that you can help reduce driver fatigue to get you safely where you’re going. While you may have heard suggestions like turning on the radio, eating or drinking, opening the window, or chewing gum to help, for many people those solutions don’t last long enough to result in any real reduction of drowsiness. Instead, try:
- Become aware of your body’s internal clock. Try to avoid driving during the times you naturally feel most tired.
- Pull over if you become too tired on the road.
- Get plenty of sleep the night before a long drive.
- Avoid working all day before driving all night. Try to stay overnight somewhere.
- Schedule a break every two hours to get fresh air and stretch your legs.
- Take a 20 minute nap mid-day before a long drive.
- Travel with an alert passenger who can chat with you and relieve you for driving if necessary.
Why Truck Drivers are Heavily Regulated
I think we can all agree that falling asleep at the wheel is bad enough when you’re driving a 3,000 pound Prius, and can still cause significant damage to you and other road users, but it’s much worse when you‘re driving a 12,000 pound 18-wheeler loaded with 80,000 pounds of cargo. Truck drivers are some of the most likely drivers to have accidents due to the very nature of their job meaning they’re frequently driving.
With the bill being brought in by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, employers of truckers are also now held more responsible by the change in federal law as previously they expected their drivers to endure mileage rather than hours behind the wheel. With a focus on the time truckers are driving and hefty fines should they not adhere means there is an active attempt to reduce the number of truck accidents that happen due to the driver being too tired or unfit to drive.
If you or your loved one have been involved in a horrendous auto accident involving a truck, where the truck driver fell asleep or was drowsy, the law in Arizona will protect you. Our team of experienced lawyers is very familiar with the recent bill introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Why not call us (480) 634-7480 today and find out just how we could help your case.
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At the Thompson Law Firm, we have more than 10 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their personal injuries, including those from drowsy driving accidents. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office.
If you have been in a DUI car accident, contact Thompson Law Firm in Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in the greater Phoenix area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.