Fatigue: Its Effect on Drivers, and Why It’s Dangerous

The National Sleep Foundation has set its 2020 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week for the first week of November, a reminder that drowsy driving is still a major concern on California roads and across the U.S. Fatigue triples the risk for a car crash, and for obvious reasons. It impairs a driver’s attention and judgment and even slows reaction times.

Fatigue arises because people fail to get adequate sleep. For adults, the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is seven hours. Going without sleep can become a lot like being drunk; for instance, being awake for 20 continuous hours is like having a blood alcohol concentration of .08.

With severe sleep deprivation comes microsleep, a burst of inattention that lasts about four or five seconds. During a microsleep episode, a driver going at highway speed could travel the length of a football field completely unaware.

There are hundreds of thousands of car crashes involving drowsy driving each year, according to estimates from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. To reduce these numbers, though, there are plenty of interventions that are possible. Universities and employers could create educational programs to encourage safer behaviors while drivers themselves could install devices like lane departure warning and drowsiness alert to avoid a crash.

When motor vehicle collisions result from the erratic behavior of a drowsy driver, victims may be able to file a claim against that driver’s auto insurance company. Filing a third-party insurance claim can be difficult without legal representation, though, so victims may want a lawyer to at least evaluate their case. If hired, the lawyer may bring in investigators to gather proof of negligence before proceeding to negotiations.

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