Many people look forward to the holidays, but fewer look forward to the drive time. There are the long-distance trips, for certain, but there is also the overall congestion, the aggressive driving by those pressed for time and snow and ice leading to slick roads and reduced visibility.
But there is one risk on the roads around the holidays that often gets overlooked: Fatigue.
Just recently in Putnam County, authorities reported a 20-year-old truck driver crashed his rig shortly before 2 a.m., veering off the highway, into the median and striking several trees. Although the dangers of fatigued truck drivers are well documented, given their long hours of tedious work, we often take for granted the devastation that can be caused by other motorists who aren’t getting enough sleep – and there are a lot of them.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compiled data from a number of studies, painting a deeply troubling picture of the problem. It’s estimated approximately 1 in 25 drivers over 18 fell asleep at the wheel while driving at some point in the last month. The NHTSA reports as many as 6,000 fatal crashes every year may be traced to a drowsy driver. The worst part is many people can’t tell if they are too tired to drive or when they may be close to falling asleep.
This is exacerbated by the holidays, when workers are often scrambling to put in overtime hours to complete end-of-year deadlines or meet consumer demands. On top of that, there are individuals traveling long distances to spend time with loved ones. Hours behind the wheel without enough rest or adequate breaks can be extremely perilous. Further, many people tend to indulge in alcohol more in December, attending a variety of holiday-related festivities. Alcohol in and of itself can be dangerous if one drives under the influence, but beyond that, alcohol has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns, causing those who imbibe not to get the proper amount of rest – and leaving them prone to a fatigued driving accident.
Driver fatigue can be grounds to assert negligence, if your Hammond personal injury attorney can prove the driver knew or should have known they did not get enough sleep. It could be considered a breach of the driver’s duty to passengers and other motorists to use reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle. However, we also recognize that it can be difficult to prove. In trucking accident cases, of course, there are stringent requirements to keep track of work/ drive time/ downtime hours, so that can make it less challenging.
But even if we cannot show definitively the driver was fatigued, that doesn’t mean the case is a lost cause. Most of the time, fatigued drivers are still making errors that amount to negligence, such as failing to yield the right-of-way or not slowing down fast enough for stopped traffic ahead.
Although these collisions are referred to as “accidents,” the reality is they are preventable when motorists take appropriate caution. Part of that means getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Drowsy Driving 2015, Oct. 2017, NHTSA
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Indiana Appeals Court: Vehicle Insured but Denied Coverage is Uninsured for UM Purposes, Oct. 18, 2017, Indiana Car Accident Attorney Blog