To protect against the dangers associated with driver fatigue, federal regulations limit the number of consecutive hours commercial truck drivers can be behind the wheel. However, there are no laws restricting how long a non-commercial driver can drive, nor are there laws requiring that drivers get a good night's rest before operating a vehicle.
Studies have shown that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year an average of 1,550 people are killed and 40,000 nonfatal injuries occur because of driver fatigue. In reality, the numbers are likely higher, as fatigue-related crashes are under-reported.
The NHTSA has found that young people, and particularly young men, are more likely than older people to cause a drowsy-driving accident. Research has shown that nearly two-thirds of fatigued-driving crashes involved drivers who were younger than 30, even though this group represents only about 25 percent of licensed drivers. According to one study, the peak age for drowsy-driving crashes was 20.
Shift workers and individuals with untreated sleep disorders were also shown to pose a higher risk of drowsy driving.
Most fatigued-driving accidents happen on high-speed, rural roads, according to the NHTSA. A common characteristic in these types of crashes is that the sleepy driver fails to take any corrective action whatsoever before the collision. As a result, such crashes are often catastrophic.
Of course, alcohol can cause an already fatigued driver to become drowsy or fall asleep more quickly.
If you believe that another driver's drowsiness was a factor in the crash that injured you, then it may be possible to obtain statements from other parties to prove that the driver was fatigued. In any case, it is a good idea to have a personal injury attorney investigate the accident and clarify your legal options for obtaining compensation for injuries.