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What is fatigued driving, and why don't I hear about it?

Did you know that fatigued driving causes over 100,000 accidents every year? Even worse, researchers believe the known figures of fatigue-related accidents are likely underreported. Trucking accident researcher Ronald Knipling (p. 160) has noted that "in-depth investigations consistently uncover about three fatigue-related crashes for every one designated by the police"[1]. The personal injury lawyers at Wyatt Law Firm understand that driving while fatigued once can come with lifelong repercussions.

In accident reporting, "fatigue" refers to driver sleepiness and drowsiness, not fatigue from physical exertion. Though fatigued driving can include falling asleep at the wheel, it also includes other attendant side effects such as inattention, diminished motor function, increased operator errors, and slowed reaction time. When sleep-deprived people drive, they operate large, fast-moving vehicles while impaired. At Wyatt Law Firm, we know that the consequences can be catastrophic.

The chief cause of driver fatigue is lack of sleep. Irregular sleep patterns and sleep disorders contribute to sleep deprivation. However, the use of state-altering substances, long periods of driving, and disruptive work schedules can also cause driver fatigue. Although people can usually recognize when they are tired, they cannot assess how sleepy they actually are. People will drive drowsy thinking themselves "awake enough."

While it may seem diligent, working long hours can deprive drivers of proper sleep schedules and discourage healthy sleeping habits. For example, commercial trucking enterprises, oil field jobs, and power plant jobs often require employees to work long hours, sometimes for several days in a row. However, it is the nighttime trucking industry that exhibits the reality of fatigue-related accidents: the majority of commercial trucking accidents occur in the late night and early morning hours. When a person skips sleep too frequently for too long, drowsiness and its activity-stunting side effects encroach on daily life, including driving.

The effects of driving while fatigued resemble those of driving drunk, but, unlike driving under the influence, there are no comparable laws against driving while fatigued. Moreover, the regulations designed to guard against commercial trucker fatigue protect no one when truckers do not follow them. The personal injury lawyers at Wyatt Law Firm understand this from experience; we know how to investigate it.

Many companies limit the number of consecutive hours a commercial driver can drive. Nevertheless, some drivers violate these limits. Even suspending regulatory requirements and restrictions, commercial and civilian drivers have a personal responsibility to ensure that they get enough sleep and are alert enough to operate a vehicle. When someone drives fatigued, it puts everyone else on the road at risk.

If you have been injured or if you have lost a loved one due to an auto accident or 18-wheeler accident caused by negligence - including fatigued driving - you may be entitled to compensation. Call Wyatt Law Firm at 210-340-5550 for a free case review or submit a confidential contact form from our website. Our personal injury, auto accident, and 18-wheeler accident attorneys have over 25 years of experience handling cases of corporate negligence. We care about our clients. Let us fight for you.

Print References

1) Knipling, R. R., Ph.D. (2009). Safety for the Long Haul; Large Truck Crash Risk, Causation, & Prevention. Arlington, VA: The American Trucking Associations, Inc.

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