Wendall Faulkner was only 28 years old when he was the victim of a fatal car accident after a driver fell asleep behind the wheel after having been without sleep for over 22 hours. In remembrance of him and all other victims of fatigued driving, Alabama holds a Drowsy Driver Awareness Day every year on November 19.
Clearly, drowsy driving poses a major threat to our safety on the road, and the State of Alabama is no stranger to the risks. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drowsy driving accident, you may have various legal options available to recover lost damages and hold the negligent driver responsible.
The team at Norris Injury Lawyers is available 24/7 to help you start the process – yes, you can get the compensation you deserve after a drowsy driving accident. Contact us today for a consultation and case review with our No Fee Guarantee® at (800) 477-7510.
Drowsy Driver Myths and Facts
It is important to understand the truth about drowsy driving – knowing the facts can save lives.
Myth: Drowsy driving is not a serious issue.
Fact: Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as impaired driving.
It is generally understood that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol seriously affects a person’s ability to drive. What is lesser known, though, is the fact that sleep-deprivation has many of the same effects on a driver, including:
- Being less able to focus on the road
- Having slower reaction times
- Making poor decisions
Clearly, fatigue can be just as dangerous as drugs or alcohol when operating a motor vehicle.
Myth: I will pull over before I fall asleep behind the wheel.
Fact: You may be unaware of your own unsafe actions until it is too late.
Drivers may notice some signs of drowsy driving, like frequent yawning or less concentration. However, they may believe that they will be able to recognize bigger warning signs before they fall asleep behind the wheel. In reality, though, even before a driver falls asleep, the effects of sleep deprivation are already there – and elevate the risk of a dangerous accident, whether the driver actually falls asleep or not.
Myth: Drowsy driving is not common.
Fact: Drowsy driving is often overlooked and is believed to be more common than impaired driving.
Drowsy driving is a more widespread issue than you may think. According to a 2020 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, approximately half of Americans reported feeling sleepy anywhere between 3 and 7 days a week. Adding that to the fact that on average, US drivers spend nearly an hour behind the wheel each day, drowsy driving becomes a real problem.
Official statistics regarding drowsy driving accidents are also likely underreported. Unlike drunk or drugged driving, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of a driver fatigue-related crash.
Common Causes of Drowsy Driving Accidents
Our team of car accident lawyers with experience in handling drowsy driving cases has seen various reasons why a driver can be fatigued while driving.
According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 and 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, and millions more may be suffering undiagnosed.
Of the over 80 recognized sleep disorders, two of the most common include:
- Insomnia: People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. These effects can be short-term (for a few days or weeks) or chronic (lasting for months or even years). Naturally, people suffering from insomnia generally get less sleep per night than their bodies need to function properly.
- Sleep apnoea: Sleep apnoea is another common sleep disorder. During sleep, breathing frequently stops for a few seconds at a time, happening several times per hour. This causes the person to wake from deep sleep to regulate breathing again. A lack of deep sleep, especially over a long period of time, contributes to drowsiness and fatigue.
Time of day
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most drowsy driving crashes happen between midnight and 6 AM or in the late afternoon. This closely corresponds with the times of day that a person is very likely to be tired.
Various industries have employees that may work varied hours without getting enough sleep, meaning they are more likely to be on the road while sleepy.
Some professions that are more at risk for driver fatigue include:
- Healthcare workers
- Business travelers
- Airline workers
Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications are not supposed to be taken when driving. Mixing two types of medications or drinking alcohol at the same time can impact a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Beware of the following medications:
- Anxiety medicine
- Allergy medicine
- Herbal remedies
Depressants or sedatives can easily cause a person to become drowsy behind the wheel or elevate any level of fatigue that he or she was already experiencing. According to Alabama law, the use of some prescription or over-the-counter medications can be identified as a DUI.
Alcohol consumption has a substantial effect on sleep. Alcohol can enhance the effects of drowsiness, even before a person is intoxicated. The fact that alcohol is often consumed during the time of day where fatigue may be heightened can compound the problem.
In addition, drinking alcohol before sleeping can reduce the amount of REM sleep cycles in a night, leading to more sleep disruptions. Binge-drinking, especially when done on a weekly basis, can result in insomnia symptoms, further contributing to driver fatigue at the wheel.
How Your Attorney Can Prove Drowsy Driving
After a crash, it can be difficult to prove that drowsy driving was the cause. Many times, multiple factors must be investigated to accurately determine whether driver fatigue was to blame.
When you work with a local Alabama car accident lawyer at the Norris law firm, you can be sure that he or she will take the time to thoroughly investigate your case. We promise to fight to the end to represent your best interests with passion and dedication.
The team at Norris Injury Lawyers is dedicated to giving you and your case the individual attention and care it deserves.
As a part of his or her investigation, your lawyer may examine information and evidence such as:
- Circumstances of the crash: Many accidents caused by driver fatigue have similarities. As mentioned, these often occur at a certain time of day. Additionally, drowsy drivers are often alone in the vehicle. Your attorney can examine scene evidence and witness testimony to help establish the cause of the accident.
- Work logs: Another piece of evidence that can help prove a drowsy driving case is work logs. For example, did the driver finish a long shift of work with no rest before getting behind the wheel? Or did he or she recently travel across multiple time zones, leading to jet lag? These are some of the facts your lawyer can examine.
- Health history: Medication and health history is another aspect that Alabama drowsy driving accident attorneys can look at as part of the investigation. This can help prove whether the driver was using any kind of medication that could have increased fatigue, thereby leading to the motor vehicle accident.
When criminal charges are not laid
Currently, only Arkansas and New Jersey have laws that specifically mention drowsy driving. While not all drowsy drivers in Alabama face criminal charges for their negligent actions, there are some circumstances where this is possible, especially if the accident resulted in a death.
However, personal injury claims fall under civil law, not criminal law. In a civil suit, there is a lower burden of proof than a criminal suit. That means that whether criminal charges were laid after the crash or not, a civil personal injury suit can still be successfully won.
Why You Need a Norris After a Drowsy Driving Accident
Every year, drowsy driving contributes to a number of dangerous accidents in Alabama. The aftermath of a serious accident can be exhausting and long-lasting, affecting every area of your life. However, you should not have to face financial hardship after being injured by a drowsy driver.
Working with Norris Injury Lawyers can help you recover compensation for your losses, including:
- Ambulance costs
- Medication costs
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
With over 40 years of experience helping injury victims, our team at Norris Injury Lawyers can help you and your family, too. We promise to be available 24/7 to offer the legal advice you need, taking the time to listen to your questions and address your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for our No Fee Guarantee® consultation at (800) 477-7510.