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Fatigue or Drowsiness as Impaired Driving

Do you know that  driver fatigue or driving when drowsy is viewed increasingly as impaired driving, like drunk or drugged driving?

Have you found yourself driving down the road and becoming aware of fatigue or drowsiness?

This is a serious problem on our highways. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, drowsy or fatigued driving is responsible for 100,000 crashes, 1500 deaths and 71,000 injuries every year.

Fatigue as Impaired Driving - Altizer Law, P.C.

Some characteristics of driver fatigue or drowsiness include:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Nodding off
  • Driving off the road or hitting the rumble strips in the shoulder of the road
  • Inability to recall the last miles driven
  • Unintentional lane change
  • Missing exits

Drowsiness significantly increases your reaction time, slowing your response to road hazards, actions of other drivers, avoiding an accident, and more. Drowsiness can cause you to make bad decisions as a driver, to fall asleep while driving, or to become unable to focus on driving.

These symptoms of fatigued or drowsy driving are obviously quite similar to the symptoms of drunk or drugged driving. In recent years, more and more attention has been directed to the dangers of fatigue as impaired driving. It is increasingly viewed to be as dangerous as drunk driving. Most states have not criminalized drowsy driving. However, some states have done so. In New Jersey, for example, a law was enacted in 2003 making drowsy driving a criminal offense, like drunk driving.

Most common causes of sleep deprivation, which underlies fatigued or drowsy driving:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Shift work
  • Some medications
  • Long-haul driving
  • Inadequate time for sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Release from a stay in hospital
  • Pain

According to Sleep Group Solutions ( adults require 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to maintain adequate alertness for driving.

“A commonly unrecognized consequence of inadequate sleep is that a person, while driving can suffer from “microsleeps” lasting less than a second. In this state, the brain switches from wake to sleep mode – enough time to cause a crash,” according to Sleep Group Solutions.

Also, widely unrecognized, “consuming caffeine is only a short term fix for drowsiness. After 3 nights of deprived sleep, caffeine was shown to be non-effective in combating sleepiness.” Popular lore suggests that several actions will keep you alert. However, opening a window, turning up the radio or changing radio stations, and chewing gum actually have no effect on drowsiness. Further, drinking caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, or other stimulants are not effective means of staying awake.

How to avoid driving fatigued or drowsy:

  • Get as much sleep as possible prior to a trip.
  • Do not drink alcohol or eat heavy meals during a trip.
  • Know if any of your medications cause drowsiness or otherwise impair your driving ability. Avoid them when driving if possible.
  • Limit the length of periods of driving. Stop at least every 2 hours to rest.
    • Stop at a safe place and take a short nap
    • As little as 10 – 20 minutes of sleep can provide sufficient recharging to make you safer when you get back on the road.
  • Travel with another person, and switch drivers regularly.
  • Do not travel between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am.

Fatigue (or drowsiness) is a form of impaired driving. Like drunk and drugged driving, fatigue is very dangerous for you and for everyone else on the road. Please do not drive when drowsy.

If you notice that another driver shows signs of fatigue, notify local police. In your report, specify the exact location, describe the vehicle, and identify the actions you observed.

If you or a loved one is injured in a car crash involving a fatigued or drowsy driver and through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to appropriate financial compensation for your hurts and harms, medical costs, and lost wages. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving drowsy are choices drivers make when they get behind the wheel of a car. If injured, call Altizer Law, P.C. Trusted attorney Bettina Altizer has been representing people injured in auto accidents for more than 25 years. She is well known as a fierce litigator and negotiator who fights until her clients are compensated fully.