Each year in Texas and across the nation, there are millions of motor vehicle accidents that cause serious injuries. The causes of the accidents vary wildly-everything from distracted driving to driving while intoxicated. However, one of the common causes of motor vehicle accidents, driving while fatigued, does not always receive top billing in the media. As a result, the public as a whole is generally unaware of the danger it poses.
Drowsy driving poses similar dangers to driving while intoxicated. When a driver is drowsy, it decreases his or her focus on the road, slows reaction times and affects the ability to make the quick decisions that are often necessary when driving. According to a recent study, being awake for 18 hours caused a driver to be as impaired as one with a blood alcohol content of .05-almost the legal limit in Texas.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving is a significant problem nationwide. The agency estimates that it is responsible for approximately 100,000 accidents, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year. However, unlike drunk driving, there is no objective test that can pinpoint drowsiness as the cause of a given accident. As a result, this number is likely higher. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that drivers falling asleep at the wheel cause 15 to 33 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Texans most at risk
Unfortunately for Texans, the CDC study also found that drowsy driving was more common in the state than any other state. According to the survey data, 6.1 percent of Texans reported experiencing symptoms of drowsy driving such as nodding off or briefly falling asleep while driving.
People from any group can be at risk of drowsy driving. However, according to the NHTSA, the groups most at risk are:
- Shift workers that work irregular hours (e.g. long-haul truckers)
- Young drivers between 16 and 29 years of age
- People who have sleep apnea-a disorder that constantly interrupts the sleep cycle, causing sufferers to be perpetually tired
Although the CDC study did not give reasons why Texans are especially at risk for drowsy driving, part of it can likely be attributed to the recent oil boom. As the oil boom has brought prosperity to many parts of the state, it has also increased the number of trucks on the road. Like other long-haul trucks, oil trucks are often driven by drivers that may not have had sufficient sleep. Unfortunately, like the trucking industry, many oil companies are not diligent in ensuring that their drivers have had the minimum amount of sleep required by the federal hours of service regulations before they go on duty, which can significantly increase the likelihood of having a truck accident.
An attorney can help
Drivers would be well-cautioned to be on the lookout for drowsy drivers in the early morning, midafternoon or late night, as these are the times when drivers are statistically more likely to be fatigued. However, if you are involved in a car accident at any time of day, driver fatigue may be to blame. An experienced personal injury attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and ensure that the responsible party is held legally accountable.