Were you hurt in a collision with a drowsy driver? Research suggests that anywhere from 100,000 to 328,000 car accidents in the U.S. are caused by fatigued drivers. The actual number is hard to tell because most drivers can’t — or won’t — acknowledge that they were tired when the crash happened.

The numbers are scary. But fatigued driving statistics don’t tell the human side of the story. You’ve been hurt. We know it. And at Trollinger Law LLC, a Waldorf drowsy driving car accident lawyer can fight for you to be fully compensated for your injuries and other losses.

The first step towards justice is learning your legal options. You can do that for free at Trollinger Law LLC. Call or visit our contact page to schedule your free consultation today. There’s no obligation.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Driving while tired compromises a driver’s reflexes, judgment, and awareness. These abilities are essential for safe driving.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 20 percent of adult drivers say they’ve fallen asleep at the wheel before. While many people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving, it turns out that driving while fatigued can be just as hazardous.

According to the National Safety Council, driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep diminishes a person’s driving ability to the same degree as if he/she had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit in the U.S.

Here’s how sleep deprivation can impact your driving ability:

  • Slower reaction times: The more tired someone is, the slower they react to emergency situations. A drowsy driver may not respond quickly enough to avoid a vehicle or other obstacle that suddenly appears in his/her path, leading to an accident.
  • Impaired judgment: Before drivers can react to a hazard in the roadway, they need to see it and recognize the danger. Drowsy drivers are slower to notice and react to changing traffic situations, leaving them little or no time to avoid a crash.
  • Increased irritability and stress: Lack of sleep makes people more likely to lose their tempers. Irritability can be particularly dangerous on the road, increasing the chances of accidents caused by aggressive driving and road rage.
  • Drifting: A drowsy driver may not notice when his/her car begins drifting out of its lane. This could result in a sideswipe accident or cause a crash when the driver overcorrects by jerking the car back into its appropriate lane too quickly.
  • Falling asleep: If a fatigued driver passes out at the wheel, the vehicle essentially becomes an unmanned missile aimed at anyone else in its path. An out-of-control car can drift off the road into neighboring motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.

What Makes People Sleepy When Driving?

While a general lack of sleep is the most common reason people can become drowsy while driving, it’s not the only cause. Other factors include:

  • Not taking rest breaks: Safety advocates suggest taking a break every two hours to keep your energy levels up while driving. Failing to do so, even after getting enough sleep the night before, can dull your senses and make an accident more likely. Commercial truck drivers are especially prone to go long hours without taking a break because of their strict delivery schedules.
  • Shift work: Working hours that don’t align with the body’s natural sleep cycle make it much harder for people to get the rest they need. Shift workers are especially vulnerable to drowsy driving when they’re heading home after an evening or morning shift.
  • Prescription and OTC medications: Many medications, no matter if they are prescription or over the counter (OTC), have drowsiness listed as a possible side effect. Motorists should never drive until they see how a medication affects them. Prescription sleep medications are especially dangerous in this regard, as they can leave a person feeling drowsy many hours after the initial dose.
  • Alcohol use: Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it can decrease energy levels, alertness, and mental acuity.

Motorists who get behind the wheel without a good night’s sleep can be held liable for any drowsy driving accidents they cause. If suspect the driver who hit you was drowsy, contact a lawyer right away to discuss your rights to compensation.

Investigating a Drowsy Driving Car Accident in Waldorf, MD

There is no roadside test for drowsy driving like there is for drunk driving. This can sometimes make it difficult to determine whether fatigue played a role in a crash. However, a drowsy driving car accident lawyer can use other pieces of evidence to show that a driver was tired when the collision occurred.

Examples of potential evidence include:

  • The driver’s behavior prior to the crash: Was the car drifting out of its lane before the crash? Did the driver periodically slow down or speed up? Were his/her movements erratic prior to the accident? All of these actions suggest that the driver was not fully aware of his/her actions at the time of the collision.
  • Traffic or surveillance cameras: A camera may have captured the interior of a vehicle prior to a crash, potentially showing the driver nodding off.
  • Police reports: If an accident leads to severe injuries, law enforcement officials are generally required to respond. They’ll conduct their own investigation and may document hallmark signs of drowsy driving car accidents, such as a lack of skid marks on the road.
  • Driver cell phone records: The phone’s GPS data could indicate that the driver traveled a long distance without stopping, which might be used alongside other evidence to show that he/she had an extended period of time awake.
  • Driver statements: Because drowsy driving impacts a driver’s memory and recall, they are often unable to remember what happened in the moments leading up to a crash. Pay special attention to what the other driver says or does after an accident. Their actions may suggest that they fell asleep behind the wheel.
  • Witness statements: Passengers or bystanders may have observed that the driver fell asleep or was nodding off in the moments before the crash.

Because drowsy driving cases can be challenging to prove, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer about whether you have a valid claim for compensation.

How to Avoid Driving While Tired

Drowsy driving prevention can start with you. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid causing a drowsy driving accident:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep experts say most people should get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
  • Take regular breaks while driving.
  • Drive with a partner so he/she can take over if you become fatigued.
  • Avoid prescription medications that could make you sleepy.
  • Don’t drink and drive.

If you’re feeling tired while driving, stop to stretch or drink some coffee for a temporary energy boost. However, this is not a replacement for sleep.

When to Contact a Lawyer After a Fatigued Driver Car Accident

If you’ve been involved in a car accident with a fatigued driver, you should call an attorney as soon as possible. The Maryland statute of limitations on personal injury claims is three years, leaving you with a limited window of time to collect compensation after an accident.

While three years may sound like a long time, it will be much easier to gather the strong evidence needed to prove a drowsy driving car accident claim when an investigation starts immediately. An experienced Drowsy Driving Car Accident Lawyer will be able to conduct a thorough, independent investigation of your case to show what happened and who is to blame.

An Experienced Waldorf Drowsy Driving Lawyer Can Help You Today

A drowsy driving car accident can change your life in an instant, leaving you with substantial medical bills and painful injuries. At Trollinger Law LLC, we have seen the toll these crashes can take on people in the Waldorf and D.C. metro area. Let us fight to restore your physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing again.

If you’ve been hurt in a drowsy driving crash in Maryland, call or contact Trollinger Law LLC now for your free case review.