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October 22, 2018

Driver Fatigue and Traffic Deaths

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Posted in Wisconsin Workers Compensation Related News

Auto Accident Lawyer

In 2015 there were 824 fatalities (2.2% of all fatalities) recorded in The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) database that were drowsy-driving-related. These reported fatalities (and drowsy-driving crashes overall) have remained largely consistent across the past decade. Between 2011 and 2015 there was a total of 4,121 crashes related to drowsy driving.

NHTSA states that it is making further efforts to reduce drowsy driving, which accounts for a significant percentage of U.S. traffic deaths.

There is increasing public awareness of the combination of fatigue and driving being another potentially dangerous problem. It may take only a second or two of decreased awareness or being asleep and a crash may occur.

NHTSA states that drowsy driving leads to thousands of automobile crashes per year. Sleepiness causes crashes because it impairs performance and can lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel. Impairments associated with sleepiness include reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing. These same deficits are consistent with those associated with drunk driving.

Consequences of a crash caused by a fatigued of sleep deprived driver can be particularly serious in terms of death or injuries because a fatigued driver may make no attempt to avoid a crash.

Driving performance declines beyond 16 hours awake, and it gets worse from there, according to Alan Pack, Director, Center for Sleep ad Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who states that when you get to 20 hours without sleep one’s performance is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol limit of .08.

Unlike alcohol related crashes no blood, breath or other measurable test is available to measure fatigue or sleepiness. There are common factors with fatigue caused crashes, such as a single vehicle leaving a roadway and crashes that occur on high speed roads.

Persons at risk include truckers and others working long shifts, people who work and go to school, who don’t get enough sleep and cumulative sleep loss. Drowsy driving crashes predominantly occur after midnight, as an auto accident lawyer Phoenix, AZ residents rely on knows well.

Those at highest risk are ages 16-29, primarily men, shift workers who work long hours, or at night, and those with untreated sleep disorders. Additional risks involve use of sedating medications, and consumption of alcohol, which interacts with and adds to drowsiness.

Truckers who are driving tractor trailers while fatigued can cause crashes resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. Such drivers may be violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations (FMCSA) by exceeding maximum number of driving hours rules.

FMCSA has set forth hours of driving limits for drivers of commercial vehicles. The purpose is to prevent collisions caused by driver fatigue, because the number of hours driving strongly correlate to the number of fatigue related crashes.

The risks of fatigue are the greatest between midnight and six in the morning and also increase with the length of the driver’s trip.

Countermeasures are obvious and need to be publicized, including public education, getting sufficient sleep, not drinking alcohol when sleepy, taking naps, and consumption of caffeine.

When work shifts preclude normal nighttime sleep then planning the times and environment to obtain restorative sleep should become a workplace priority.

The Arizona Drivers License Manual has identified groups of drivers at risk for crashes due to sleepiness, including shift workers, business travelers, commercial drivers, those with sleep disorders and young people.

The manual further states that drowsy driving/fatigue is an issue as serious and perilous as driving under the influence of alcohol, but not as detectable.

To avoid fatigue, the manual provides these guidelines:

  • Get plenty of rest before you start on a long trip.
  • Avoid driving late at night.
  • Take frequent rest stops, get out of the vehicle and exercise, breathe deeply and move around.
  • Do not stare straight ahead, keep your eyes moving, and check your mirrors and dash gauges.
  • Roll down the windows to get fresh air, sing along with the radio, or chew gum.
  • If possible, change drivers frequently.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at the Law Office of Paul Englander, PLC for their insight into auto accidents and deaths.

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