Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that about 800 road users are killed each year and around the country in traffic accidents involving fatigued drivers, but many experts believe that drowsiness is often overlooked at crash scenes and the true death toll is significantly higher. This is because being involved in an accident tends to rouse even the most fatigued motorists, and few Illinois drivers are willing to admit to responding police officers that they crashed after falling asleep behind the wheel.
Drowsiness is impairment
Fatigue impairs decision-making and slows reaction times in much the same way that alcohol does. After studying the effects of drowsiness on motorists, researchers from the University of New South Wales concluded that going without sleep for 24 hours resulted in the same level of impairment as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1, which is far higher than the legal limit. Skimping on sleep can be almost as dangerous. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sleeping for five hours each night instead of the recommended seven or eight hours makes a motorist four times more likely to crash.
Fatigue remains a persistent road safety issue because drivers continue to get behind the wheel while drowsy despite knowing the risks. When American drivers were surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of them admitted to driving while fatigued. Even more worrying, one in five of the respondents told researchers that they had fallen asleep while driving during the prior 12 months.
Evidence of fatigue
There are several ways experienced personal injury attorneys may search for evidence of fatigue when pursuing car accident lawsuits. Medical records or toxicology test results could reveal that the defendant had taken medication that causes drowsiness, and electronic data gathered from automobile black boxes could show that no evasive action was taken to avoid a crash.