Beltway Accidents Resulting from Driver Fatigue
The causes of car, truck and motorcycle-related traffic accidents are many and varied, as are the people who find themselves seriously hurt as a result of these potentially preventable incidents. Although one can see that some roadway wrecks can actually be caused by uncontrollable circumstances, there are many that occur simply because one person made a conscious decision to either ignore his or her responsibilities or was too involved in their own personal situation to consider the ramifications of their actions or inaction.
While a defective car or truck part, not to mention bad weather or poor roadway markings, can precipitate a traffic collision, driver behavior is recognized as a major factor when looking at the primary cause of many road accidents. Whether a collision happens on the city streets of Baltimore or the District, or on a Maryland highway, interstate or beltway loop, the results of a serious collision can change the life of an innocent victim in a flash.
As Maryland auto injury attorneys, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we know that many automobile and commercial trucking accidents take place solely because of human error. While driver mistakes are bound to happen, there are certain aspects of driver error that many safety experts believe are preventable, if not able to be greatly reduced in frequency. One particular area of concern for many years has been the problem of driver fatigue.
We all know that drinking and driving continues to be a major a problem in this country, with Maryland drivers hardly immune to the effects of traffic wrecks caused by drunken drivers. Similarly, drug use, both legal and illegal, has contributed to the state’s overall traffic accident statistics. Interestingly, distracted driving has been said to be even more dangerous than DWI and DUI on our roadways, which is saying quite a lot.
All this taken into consideration, driver fatigue is one of the more insidious problems when it comes to automobile and commercial trucking accidents. This is because an over-tired motorist can be just as dangerous as one who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, the ability to reduce the incidence of drowsy driving accidents is perhaps more difficult than reducing the number of drunk driving accidents.
As many traffic safety experts would agree, driver fatigue is quite common for those taking long driving trips, which also applies to commercial truckers as they make a living traveling thousands of miles each week as part of their jobs. While drivers may be reticent to admit being too tired to drive safely, unlike drunk driving it may be much more difficult to place specific blame on the drowsy driver versus a simple instance of driver error or identifying certain road conditions that likely contributed to a crash.
Regardless of the ability of law enforcement to identify when a driver was too tired to drive following a traffic accident, as motorists we all have a vested interest in making Maryland roadways a safer place to travel. As drivers ourselves, the legal staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen, is very interested in maintaining roadway safety in terms of reducing or eliminating injury-related collisions and especially those that result in the death or permanent disability of innocent victims.
The threat of fatigue-related driving accidents has arguably increased over the past decade as the slower than normal economic recovery has forced more and more individuals to work extra hours, take on second shifts and accept employment at more distant locations from home. As such, the desire to simply make ends meet has perhaps increased the dangers to many on our public roadways.
Driver fatigue can create a very dangerous situation, not only for the individual affected, but also any passengers riding with him, as well as the occupants of other vehicles that unknowingly share the road with the drowsy driver. Fatigue for most motorists can be caused by the often-hypnotic effect of night driving. Safety experts have suggested that, at their peak, the sleep-inducing effects of nighttime driving can result in a ten-fold increase in the risk of falling asleep at the wheel than during daytime driving.
From the standpoint of an auto accident-related personal injury lawsuit, the negligence factor in making a fatal driving error may be compounded by the decision of a driver to get behind the wheel of a car or truck while suffering from a lack of sleep or a dangerous level of fatigue. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, our auto accident lawyers can help victims of a serious commercial truck or car crash by determining whether drowsy driving or other factors were at play in a negligence-related highway collision.
When looking at driver fatigue, its causes and effects, it is important to realize that the peak time for such accidents includes not only the early morning hours, but also the mid-afternoon timeframe. Long journeys on monotonous roadways, such as interstates and state highways, are the most common circumstances that can result in a drowsy driving accident. In addition to the onset of fatigue at night and during mid-day, researchers have found that the initial grogginess that is felt right after awaking from a deep sleep can also be dangerous from the viewpoint of overall traffic safety.
While it is important to recognize the dangers of driver fatigue, it should be reminded that experts in the field of traffic safety warn that being tired can have a measureable effect on a motorist long before that individual realizes that he or she is suffering from severe fatigue. One of the problems with drowsy driving is that the severity of crashes that take place as a result of fatigue can be amplified due to the affected driver’s lack of quick response to an emergency situation.
Because of this, fatigue-induced roadway collisions can quite frequently feature greater damage to property and potentially more serious bodily injuries due to higher vehicle speeds at impact or more severe collision conditions, such as a head-on crash on an undivided highway. An extreme reduction in driver reaction time, or even a complete lack of an emergency maneuver, can make these types of road accidents something to avoid if at all possible.
Recognizing the symptoms of drowsy driving can perhaps improve the chances that people will avoid driving altogether, or at least take steps to stop in a safe place to rest before resuming a long road trip. The physical warning signs, which should be kept in mind by passengers as well as drivers, can include the feeling of having “heavy eyelids,” frequent yawning, and the sense that things on the roadway are “jumping out” at the driver. Performance-related danger signs can range from the affected driver’s vehicle drifting or wandering over lane dividers, marked changes in vehicle speed for no apparent reason, and the driver’s slow or delayed reaction to traffic situations that don’t necessarily result in a crash.
From the standpoint of timing, many drivers can end up being overcome by the effects of fatigue between 2am and 6am in the morning, as well as during mid-day drives around 2pm. Of people who may be generally more susceptible to drowsy driving, studies have shown that some of the higher-risk occupations include those individuals who work nightshifts, airline crewmembers, college students and commercial truckers, as well as those in the medical profession.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers in the U.S. report having driven while feeling drowsy within the past 12 months. More alarming was the finding that more than one-third of drivers told researchers that they had fallen asleep at the wheel at one time or another, of that group, about 13 percent said that they nod off behind the wheel at least once every month. Based on the foundation’s research, more than 10,000 drivers admitted to having been involved in a car accident or near-accident because they fell asleep or were over-tired while operating their vehicle.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we understand the frustration that auto accident victims experience when faced with mounting medical expenses and rehabilitation costs resulting from a car, truck or motorcycle accident caused by a negligent driver. It is only fair that those responsible for the accident be held accountable for the injuries and hardship resulting from that collision.
As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, our main goal is to assist car and truck accident victims recover damages based on medical expenses and lost wages, not to mention compensation for pain and suffering. We also can help families who have lost a loved on to a fatal traffic accident by filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party(s).
Anyone who has been seriously injured by a negligent motorist or careless commercial truck driver should contact a qualified legal professional. The skilled auto injury attorneys at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen are always happy to discuss your case. Please do not hesitate to contact us to arrange a no-obligation consultation. We can be reached toll-free at (800) 654-1949; or you can email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers.