In the midst of the bustle of the holidays, it’s not uncommon for drivers to sacrifice sleep to get where they’re going. While there is a great deal of (deserved) focus on distracted driving and drunk driving during the holidays, drowsy driving is another – often overlooked – catalyst for car accidents in Florida that deserves some attention.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that 21 percent of all fatal crashes involved a driver who was fatigued, as did 13 percent of all car accidents in which a person was hospitalized for personal injury. That amounts to 109,000 injury crashes and 6,400 deadly crashes every single year attributed to a sleepy driver.
Although a number of states have enacted laws that classify drowsy driving as a criminal offense when it results in a death, Florida is not among those. However, drowsy driving can still be considered negligence if the individual knew or should have known they were too tired to drive. That’s because every motorist has a legal duty of care to other drivers to use reasonable caution behind the wheel. Driving while tired can be considered a breach of that duty because it is a failure to use reasonable care. Still, such claims can be difficult to substantiate, which is why it’s important to have an experienced South Florida injury attorney on your side who can carefully assess the merits and strength of your case.
Tired drivers are a problem year-round. Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last year that indicated more than one-third of adults in this country aren’t getting enough sleep. When they drive, their reaction time is considerably slower, mimicking that of a driver who is drunk. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation showed more than a third of all drivers have admitted to falling asleep at least once in their lifetime while driving.
It’s an issue that is especially problematic around the holidays because people are under increasing demands, with work and family and loved ones. Sleep psychologists theorized to ABC.net.au that part of the problem is that at the end of the year, many people are playing “catch-up” at the end of the year. Most people don’t realize how over-tired they are until they slow down a bit. Some studies have indicated the average adult is getting at least an hour less – if not more – than the 8 to 9 hours they really need each night.
Another reason is that around the holidays, many people indulge in alcohol. This can have a direct effect on the quality of sleep one is getting. Sleep is more fragmented and less restorative. In addition to that, many workers are putting in a great deal of overtime, trying to fill end-of-year demands and deadlines. There are also many people running extra errands and shopping. To top it all off, millions of people travel long-distance, usually in a motor vehicle, to visit friends and loved ones or to take vacations, during the last month of the year. Our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys know those long hours in the car can easily result in a dangerous level of fatigue.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, those most at-risk of drowsy driving include:
- Younger people, particularly men, under the age of 26.
- Those who work long hours or who work night shifts.
- Long-haul and commercial drivers (approximately 15 percent of all large truck crashes involve trucker fatigue).
- Individuals with undiagnosed sleeping disorders (they are seven times more vulnerable to falling asleep at the wheel).
- Those who travel for business/ or are jet-lagged.
Although it may be difficult to prove drowsy driving, our attorneys can often still find evidence of negligence in these cases. Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are prone to display negligence in some other form, such as running a red light, failing to yield or driving down the road in the wrong direction. Finding proof the driver was fatigued will only help to strengthen your case.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at David J. Halberg, P.A., Attorneys at Law, by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Drowsy Driving 2015, released Oct. 2017, NHTSA
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