Drowsy Driving Accident Attorneys in La Mesa
The dangers of drunk driving and distracted driving have been well documented, but one issue that has not received as much attention is drowsy driving. In today’s society, people are more stressed out than ever before. Many have to work long hours to make ends meet, and this often means burning the candle at both ends and not getting a proper amount of sleep before driving.
Drowsy driving is far more common than most people realize. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that 60% of Americans have driven while they were feeling sleepy, and 37% admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel within the past year. To make matters worse, many people do not know when they have reached the point where they are about to fall asleep at the wheel, so they lull themselves into a false belief that they can keep going and everything will be fine.
Although drowsy driving is not illegal, it is very dangerous, and when someone is injured in an accident that is caused by a drowsy or fatigued driver, they deserve to be fully compensated. Unfortunately, insurance companies will do everything they can to avoid paying for the negligent actions of their clients. For this reason, it is very important to have an experienced advocate in your corner who is looking out for your best interests.
For more than two decades, the attorneys at Garmo and Garmo, LLP have successfully represented individuals who have been injured through no fault of their own in San Diego and throughout Southern California. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge of personal injury law, and we fight hard to help our clients recover the full and fair compensation they deserve.
We routinely go up against well-funded adversaries such as large insurance companies, and we are not intimidated by their vast resources. When we take on a new client who has been injured in a drowsy driving accident, we go to work immediately to build the strongest possible case, and we deal directly with the at fault party or their insurer to negotiate a fair settlement. If, however, the other side is not willing to be reasonable, we are fully prepared to take your case to trial if necessary.
Drowsy Driving Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving causes nearly 100,000 crashes, 50,000 injuries, and around 1,000 deaths each year. These numbers are most likely underestimated, however, because drowsiness is often not listed as a cause of accident on a police report. Some estimates put the annual number of drowsy driving-related fatalities at closer to 6,000, and drowsiness is said to be a factor in as much as 20% of all traffic-related deaths.
Falling asleep behind the wheel is clearly the worst-case scenario for a drowsy driver, but even if they do not fall asleep, just being sleepy increases the risk of getting into a crash. Tired and fatigued drivers have much slower reaction times when there is a sudden need to hit the brake suddenly or steer the vehicle away from danger. Drowsiness also inhibits a driver’s ability to focus, causing them to miss important details such as vehicle entering their blind spot or a pedestrian crossing in front of them.
Who is Most at Risk for Driving while Drowsy?
Anyone who does not get a proper amount of sleep is susceptible to driving while drowsy or fatigued. For adults, this means seven hours or more of sleep per night. For teens, this means eight hours or more.
There are some groups that are more at risk for drowsy driving than the general public. These include:
- Commercial Drivers: Individuals who drive commercially for a living, such as drivers of tractor-trailers, buses, and tow trucks.
- Shift Workers: Those who work long shifts with frequent overtime, particularly shifts that stretch into the evening and overnight hours.
- Long-Distance Travelers: Those who travel long distances and who frequently change time zones.
- Sleep Disorder Sufferers: Those who suffer from untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
- Individuals Who Take Certain Medications: Drivers who take sleep inducing drugs or prescription medications.
Over-the-road truck drivers are particularly susceptible to driving while drowsy, because they often fit into four or five of the above-mentioned categories. Those who drive semi-trucks are typically on the road for many hours at a time, and they sometimes drive longer than they are legally allowed to in order to meet unrealistic deadlines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also reports that nearly one-third of all big rig truck drivers have sleep apnea.
Pursuing a California Drowsy Driving Accident Claim
Those who are injured in accidents that are caused by a drowsy driver are eligible for compensation. Compensatory damages may be available not only for direct monetary losses such as medical bills, lost earnings, and property damage, but also for noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, disfigurement, and permanent injury.
In more limited cases in which the actions of the responsible driver were willful, malicious, or grossly negligent, punitive damages may also be awarded. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are not meant to compensate the injury victim, but rather to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them and others from committing similarly egregious actions in the future.
Drowsy driving accident cases can be complicated, and it is often difficult to prove that a driver caused the accident because they were tired or fatigued. Unlike drunk driving, there is no test to measure drowsiness, and the fact that a driver was drowsy may need to be discovered through indirect factors after a thorough investigation. For example, if it is found that a commercial truck driver violated federal Hours of Service guidelines and drove for more than 11 consecutive hours, this can help show that the driver was too tired to safely operate a vehicle.
Reducing Fatigue on California Roads
You may want to consume caffeinated items and coffee for boosting your alertness and energy. This may work temporarily but you are more likely to experience “microsleeps.” While a cup or two of coffee with a short nap will let you keep going, you cannot substitute them for a full night’s rest. You may want to keep the windows rolled down for a short burst of energy.
The best thing to do when tired is to let someone else take over while you get to rest. Don’t forget that it is illegal and dangerous to stop on the shoulder of a highway or freeway to sleep. Most drowsy driving accidents involve a lack of skid marks. This doesn’t mean the driver was not speeding, but that they fell asleep and could not avoid the crash at all.
In some cases, the roadside may feature plastic bumps or rumble strips to alert drivers that they have drifted too far. These are a few tips that can help you combat fatigued driving:
- Get enough sleep: Stick to a sleep schedule by practicing good sleeping habits.
- Have someone else drive: You can always have a friend take over the driving duties if you start feeling sleepy.
- Take a nap: There are several rest areas to take a short and safe snooze.
- Choose daytime driving: Our normal circadian rhythms make us more naturally awake during the day. Healthy amounts of vitamin D can stimulate your brain and help you sleep better during the night.
- Use an app: Various smartphone apps can monitor your eyes when driving. These need to be mounted on the dashboard though.
- Don’t drink alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol when on the road. You should also refrain from taking any sleep-inducing drugs. Don’t forget to speak with a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.
- Check into a hotel: Find roadside lodging or a hotel if you can’t find any rest areas. Ask for an hourly rate if you don’t want to spend the night.
There are a few other ways of fighting off drowsiness:
- Listen to energetic music to boost your mood and rev up your heart rate.
- Chewing gum can be useful in stimulating your senses. It is a better alternative to drinking coffee or snacking.
- Open the window to let in the fresh air and reduce carbon dioxide levels in the car.
- Chocolate, coffee, and energy drinks don’t guarantee wakefulness. Always find a place to take a nap when in doubt.
Contact Our Knowledgeable and Compassionate La Mesa Auto Accident Lawyers
At Garmo and Garmo, LLP, we understand that being injured by a drowsy driver can take a major physical, emotional, and financial toll on victims and their families, and our goal is to make the legal process as smooth and stress-free as possible. We handle everything for you from start to finish, and we take care of all of the complex legal tasks, so you can focus on your recovery. Throughout the process, we provide frequent updates on the progress of your case, and we are always available whenever you need to reach out to us with questions or concerns.
Call our office today at 619-441-2500 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team.