Who is Most Likely to Drive While Drowsy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowsy driving is responsible for more than 70,000 crashes each year, resulting in approximately 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths. The CDC goes on to say that these are most likely conservative estimates because tiredness and fatigue are not always cited as the cause of an accident on a police report. The CDC believes that the actual number of fatal crashes that are caused by drowsy driving may be as high as 6,000.
The dangers of driving while drowsy go beyond just falling asleep at the wheel. Clearly, going to sleep can result in catastrophic consequences, but even when that does not happen, drowsy drivers are still at higher risk of an accident. Drowsiness slows reaction times when there is a need to steer or hit the break suddenly, and it makes drivers less able to pay attention to important details on the road. Overall, this leads to poorer driving decisions.
At one time or another, we have all probably driven when we were tired or fatigued. As you might expect, this is most likely to happen when a driver does not get enough sleep. For adults, this would mean at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and for teens, this would mean 8 hours.
Although anyone may be susceptible to drowsy driving, there are certain groups wherein this behavior is more common. These include:
- Commercial drivers, such as those who drive semi-trucks, tow trucks, and buses;
- Those who work long shifts that stretch into the evening and overnight hours;
- Drivers who have untreated sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea);
- Those who travel long distances and/or change time zones frequently;
- Drivers who use sleep-inducing medications;
- Drivers who get six hours of sleep or less per night.
Over-the-road truck drivers are one of the groups that are most susceptible to drowsy driving. Truckers can sometimes fit into every one of the above-mentioned high-risk categories, and the pressures of their job do not help matters. Trucking companies are known for putting unrealistic deadlines on their drivers in order to boost profits, which often puts truckers in the unenviable position of making a choice between pulling over to get the rest they need or staying on the road longer than they are legally allowed to in order to keep their schedule.
Drowsy Driving Accident Claims in Virginia
Because they often involve large commercial vehicles, accidents caused by drowsy drivers can result in some of the most serious and catastrophic injuries. And when someone is injured in a drowsy driving accident, they deserve to be fully compensated.
Compensatory damages may be available not only for direct monetary losses such as medical costs, and lost earnings, but also for non-economic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, and permanent injury. In some rare cases when the actions of the party responsible for the injuries are especially egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded to “punish” the wrongdoer and help deter similar actions in the future. Virginia caps punitive damages at $350,000.
Drowsy driving accident cases are more difficult to pursue in states like Virginia because they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard. This means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering damages. This is one of many reasons why it is important to get an experienced attorney involved as soon as possible. Otherwise, your legal right to recover compensation may be jeopardized.
Contact Our Experienced Virginia Auto Accident Attorneys
If you or someone close to you suffered an injury in a drowsy driving accident in Virginia, the attorneys at Schilling & Esposito are ready to go to work for you! Call our office today at 804-261-1001 or message us online to schedule your free consultation. You may also stop by one of our Richmond offices in person at your convenience, or we will come to you.
We accept all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay attorney fees if we recover compensation on your behalf.