A lot of attention from safety advocates is placed on distracted driving and drunk driving, both of which are leading causes of fatal crashes. Drowsy driving doesn't seem to get the same level of attention. Yet, there are many drivers who have driven while tired at some point in their lives. So, the problem is more common than we think.
According to the NHTSA, nearly 800 traffic fatalities were caused by drowsy driving. It's very unlikely for drivers to suddenly fall asleep at the wheel without any warning signs, unless they suffer from a sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy.
Those who are at risk of dozing off while driving will often experience heavy eyelids, frequent blinking and yawning, trouble concentrating, and poor memory of the last few miles driven. Drivers who experience these warning signs should get off the road as soon as possible.
How sleep disorders play a role in drowsy driving crashes
For many drivers, drowsy driving is caused by:
- Inadequate sleep
- Driving during the early morning hours or mid-to-late afternoon
- Working a night shift or rotating shift
- Embarking on long driving trips without taking breaks
- Driving on long, desolate roadways
The risk of drowsy driving may be an ongoing problem for people who suffer from undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders. These may include:
- Sleep apnea: This condition is a serious and ongoing disruption to normal breathing patterns while sleeping. There are generally three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive: This is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the throat muscles relax too much and block the airways.
- Central: This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles involved in the breathing process.
- Complex: This type of sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
- Insomnia: This is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and is often linked to stress, anxiety, depression, certain illnesses and the use of certain medications.
- Restless leg syndrome: This condition is an uncomfortable sensation in the legs that makes it difficult to fall asleep. People who suffer from restless leg syndrome have an uncontrollable urge to move their legs while trying to sleep.
- Narcolepsy: People with this condition may fall asleep without warning and during the daytime hours.
Can drivers with sleep disorders be found negligent?
Those who suffer from sleep disorders that impact their ability to sleep at night often experience daytime drowsiness. It's important that these individuals stay off the road until they can get diagnosed and treated for their conditions. Those who suffer from narcolepsy or any condition that could induce unexpected daytime sleepiness may not be permitted to drive and may be breaking the law by doing so.
That's why it's important that you know your rights if you were injured in a crash with a drowsy driver. You may be entitled to compensation through a car accident claim, but getting compensated for your losses won't be easy. Without the right legal representation, you would be up against an insurance company who will use an arsenal of tricks to pin the blame on you or coax you into excepting a low-ball settlement. Don't fall for it. You deserve better.
That's why you should speak to an experienced New Mexico car accident attorney at Szantho Law Firm as soon as possible to learn about the legal options available to you. Our law offices are located in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Contact us online and schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.