Driver fatigue isn’t just due to the failure to get enough sleep. There are many reasons why a driver may be tired. What’s important isn’t necessarily the exact cause of the fatigue but knowing when it is present and taking immediate action to avoid people unnecessarily being hurt or even killed. If a driver is tired before he/she starts a trip, the driver shouldn’t start the car. If a driver is feeling tired during the trip, the answer isn’t to soldier on. The answer is to get off the road as quickly as possible, get some rest, and only resume driving when the driver is refreshed.
Driver fatigue is a leading cause of car accidents in Tulsa. Tired drivers are not able to anticipate emergencies or respond to emergencies. They also have difficulty controlling their car, which means they may shift into other lanes of travel, drive through stop signs, speed, take more time to apply their brakes, and fail to take proper actions to prevent accidents.
According to the National Safety Council, you’re three times more likely to be in a fatal accident if you’re fatigued. Drivers who drive for more than 20 hours without sleep are just as dangerous to themselves or anyone in their path compared to those that have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 – the legal limit for a DUI charge in Oklahoma.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that nearly 800 people die and 50,000 people are injured every year due to fatigued driving. Yearly, there are about 100,000 police-reported crashes due to driver fatigue. The actual number is likely much higher since many officers can’t make an absolute determination as to whether or not a driver is tired.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that the number of yearly vehicle accidents related to fatigue is actually 328,000, with 109,000 people suffering injuries and 6,400 people losing their lives.
What are the causes of driver fatigue?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that the causes of driver fatigue vary. Some are obvious while others are not. Common causes include:
- Being awake for long stretches of time.
- Getting some sleep but not an adequate amount over multiple days. Generally, seven to nine hours a day is advisable.
- The time of day. Everyone has a sleep/wake cycle. According to NIOSH the “urge to sleep is the most intense in the early morning hours.”
- Doing boring repetitive tasks over a long period of time.
- Drowsiness from medications and/or alcohol.
- Sleep disorders.
Some of the signs of driver fatigue include yawning, daydreaming, tailgating, driving over a rumble strip, missing exits, difficulty participating in a conversation and inability to perform other routine tasks associated with operating a motor vehicle.
What happens when a driver is fatigued?
NIOSH states that tired drivers are more likely to:
- Fall asleep while driving.
- Even dosing off for a few seconds can prove to be fatal, particularly with cars traveling at or above 60 miles per hour. At 60 miles per hour, or 90 feet per second, a driver will travel the length of a football field in under 4 seconds.
- React slower to traffic conditions including other drivers and pedestrians.
- Experience “tunnel vision” wherein the driver’s peripheral vision is limited.
- Forgetting where the driver has been and where he/she is going.
Who is responsible for a driver fatigue accident in Tulsa?
The driver who caused an accident due to fatigue is the first person who will be informed that they should account for your injuries or the death of a loved one. Drivers should avoid driving while tired at all costs. There is no specific requirement to show the driver was fatigued or that the fatigue caused the car accident.
Drivers who speed, drive distracted, or fail to properly react to traffic or weather conditions will almost always be found liable for accidents they cause. As investigations into a particular event gain steam, fatigue may be uncovered as the explanation for why that driver acted in such a way. Depending on the circumstances behind the collision and fatigue, if a driver’s condition or conduct is egregious enough it could lead to increased value of a victim’s claim including but not limited to punitive damages.
Other car accident defendants may include:
- The driver’s employer. Generally, employers are liable for the negligence of their employees if an incident occurs while the employee is in the course and scope of their employment.
- The owner of the car, if the owner was aware the driver was driving while tired and still allowed them to drive.
Our Tulsa car accident lawyers do have strategies for helping to show a driver was fatigued. Early on we may employ investigators who will speak to the responding authorities and when needed, will conduct their own investigations and interviews. Once litigation is underway we will issue discovery requests to help build a timeline of what occurred in the hours and days leading up to a collision. Oftentimes a defendant’s driver logs, work history and other evidence can quickly show that there simply was not enough time in the day for the at-fault driver to be properly rested at the time of a collision.
At Biby Law Firm, we have the experience and resources to hold all negligent drivers accountable, including those suffering from fatigue. To speak with an experienced, respected trial attorney, call us or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. All consultations are free and confidential.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.