Getting enough rest before driving is crucial to handling vehicles safely. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t take fatigue seriously enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 795 people nationwide died in drowsy driving accidents in a recent year. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in 25 drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days. Clearly, America has a problem.
Drowsy driving accidents can cause severe, lifelong injuries and take a terrible financial toll. If you’ve been injured in a collision with a fatigued driver, contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Custodio & Dubey LLP. Our California trial attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience representing injured people. Our track record speaks for itself, with more than $25 million in compensation recovered for our clients. It’s time to find out what we can do for you. Call or fill out our contact form to speak with a drowsy driving accident attorney today.
What Is Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving can happen any time a driver gets behind the wheel without adequate rest. Fatigue can affect the body in many ways that can reduce driving ability. Some of the dangers of drowsy driving include:
- Slowed reflexes
- Impaired cognition and judgment
- Difficulty focusing
- Swerving between or within lanes
- Briefly losing consciousness or falling fully asleep
Who is at Most Risk for Drowsy Driving?
Anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep is at risk for drowsy driving. However, certain groups are at more risk because of their jobs or lifestyle choices. Examples of drivers with a greater chance of drowsy driving include:
- Commercial truck drivers: Truck drivers often work odd hours and travel long distances per shift, which often interrupts the body’s natural sleep patterns. Some drivers also face pressure from their employers to complete their deliveries as quickly as possible. These factors can cause drivers to violate mandatory rules about rest breaks or drive recklessly. Fatigued trucking is especially dangerous because the vehicles are so much bigger and heavier than standard passenger cars.
- Shift workers: Human bodies typically function best during daylight hours. Unfortunately, some jobs don’t permit workers to do their job during these ideal hours. Nurses, utility workers, police, firefighters, certain retail employees, and other people who work graveyard shifts may find themselves driving extremely late or early, making them more susceptible to drowsy driving.
- Younger drivers: Teenagers and young adult drivers are more likely to stay up late or into the early morning hours. This makes them more likely to be behind the wheel at times when the risk of drowsy driving is at its highest. Teens are also more likely to ignore the warning signs of drowsy driving and engage in other risky driving behaviors.
- People with untreated sleep disorders: Insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders can impact driving performance even if the driver tries to get enough rest. Experiencing chronic fatigue after getting a full night’s sleep could be a sign of an untreated sleep disorder, so see a doctor if you’re sleeping poorly.
Drowsy Driving Is Similar to Drunk Driving
Many people ignore the warning signs of drowsy driving because they don’t realize how fatigue impacts driving performance. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, going 24 hours without sleep impairs driving to the same degree as a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.10. Given that a BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit in most states, driving while tired can be equivalent to drunk driving.
Drowsy Driving Laws in Los Angeles
Los Angeles does not have a specific law banning drowsy driving. However, if a police officer observes dangerous driving caused by lack of sleep, they could charge the driver with reckless driving or another offense under the California Vehicle Code.
Authorities recognize the particular dangers of truckers driving while fatigued, so commercial vehicle operators must adhere to strict regulations designed to keep them well-rested. These are called hours-of-service rules. The standards are very specific:
- Drivers making trips that start and end in California must comply with the state’s hours-of-service rules, which say that:
- A truck driver may not drive for more than 12 hours after being off-duty for at least 10 straight hours.
- Truck drivers must stop driving after 16 hours of work, whether those 16 hours include driving or not.
- Truck drivers are ineligible to drive after being on duty for 80 hours in any consecutive eight-day period.
- Truckers making trips across multiple states must comply with the federal regulations described by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which state that:
- A truck driver may be on duty for up to 14 consecutive hours, provided they’ve been off-duty for at least 10 straight hours. This 14-hour window starts as soon as the driver begins their work for the day, whether that work includes driving or not.
- During the 14-hour work window, a truck driver may only be behind the wheel for up to 11 hours.
- Truck drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes if it’s been eight hours or longer since their last break of a similar length.
- Depending on their driving schedule, truck drivers may only work for up to 60 or 70 hours in a seven-day or eight-day workweek, respectively.
Liability for a Drowsy Driving Accident
In most drowsy driving accident cases, the drowsy driver will be at fault (or liable) for the accident. In some cases, the injured victim may be found partially responsible for their injuries. The good news is that even in cases of shared fault, the injured victim may still recover compensation from the other party.
California uses a pure comparative negligence model when more than one party is liable for an accident. Put simply, you can recover compensation even if you’re partly at fault for the accident and your injuries. However, your compensation will be reduced according to your percentage of fault. For example, you’d lose 15 percent of your compensation if you’re found 15 percent at fault for the accident.
Get Help from a Trusted Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer
No one can prepare for the devastation caused by a car accident. If you were hit in Los Angeles by someone driving while tired, a drowsy driving accident lawyer at Custodio & Dubey LLP can help you seek justice. There’s nothing to lose by reaching out to us for a free consultation. Call or contact us today to get started.