Falling asleep when driving in South Carolina may be gross negligence if you are behind the wheel and involved in a car accident. It can be ruled that the drowsy driver acted negligently and disregard the safety of others.
It is a risky move with catastrophic consequences. If you were in an auto accident involving a negligent, fatigued driver, fight for justice alongside a South Carolina motor vehicle accident attorney.
How Dangerous Is Falling Asleep When Driving?
Lack of sleep and driving while very tired is an epidemic in the United States, with one-third of adults getting less than the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to federal government data, approximately 90,000 car accidents happen each year in the United States due to drivers falling asleep while operating a vehicle. Sleepy driving impairs a person’s driving ability, just as driving while intoxicated affects your cognitive and motor functions.
Even if drivers nod off for a few seconds for a “microsleep,” there are still serious dangers. Drowsy drivers taking this risk are liable for others’ injuries and fatalities and can be considered grossly negligent.
Falling Asleep When Driving: When is it Considered Negligence?
The legal term negligence can be defined as the fundamental understanding everyone owes each other a duty of care. This duty includes not putting others at risk of harm, which includes when you are on the road. The goal of a car accident lawyer is to show that another driver was negligent behind the wheel. They do so by gathering evidence that shows the:
- The person who fell asleep while driving had a legal duty of care for the injured vehicle accident victim to drive with caution.
- The person who fell asleep while driving breached their duty of care by driving their vehicle without adequate alertness.
- The driver at fault’s drowsiness caused the car accident.
- The car accident caused injuries or fatalities for the crash victim.
Your attorney will gather evidence to show that fatigue is the cause of negligence and the defendant violated the duty of care to others, impairing their judgment and actions behind the wheel. In other words, the driver can be found legally and financially responsible for the accident.
When Are Drowsy Driving Crashes More Common?
According to research and statistics provided by the NHTSA, while car accidents caused by sleepy drivers can happen any time of the day or night, there are several more common times and factors for drowsy driving crashes, including:
- Falling asleep while driving occurs most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon, when your circadian rhythm drops, the body’s natural way of regulating sleep.
- Falling asleep while driving occurs more often on rural roads and highways.
- Falling asleep while driving often involves a single driver without passengers who runs off the road at high speed and with no braking.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Falling Asleep While Driving?
A person who falls asleep while driving may be guilty of reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter if the accident caused a wrongful death.
It varies from state to state but driving a motor vehicle while drowsy can be classified as a felony, depending on the accident and whether a death was involved. The sleepy driver who caused the car accident will also be required to pay for the victim’s damages, which can include:
- Medical bills, including surgeries, medicine, and physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Property damages to the vehicle
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Physical therapy bills
- Permanent disability
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Prove Punitive Damages?
In car accidents that show extremely reckless actions by the fatigued at-fault driver, punitive damages can be sought by the victim’s car accident attorney. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to actual damages in certain circumstances, usually determined by the presiding judge. These damages are meant to not only punish the sleepy driver’s behavior in their particular accident but to serve as a warning for the defendant and other drivers.
These factors are considered by the court to prove that punitive damages are involved that exceed simple compensation:
- The level that the driver was aware of the potential harm from driving while fatigued
- The extent the driver attempted to correct their actions after realizing how dangerous the situation was
- How long the driver was behind the wheel with extreme drowsiness
What Are the Indicators of Falling Asleep While Driving?
Drivers will often not realize how sleepy they are behind the wheel and how catastrophic driver fatigue can be. There are warning signs that you or someone else is falling asleep while driving, including:
- Rapid blinking
- Frequent yawning
- Drooping, itchy, or watery eyes
- Reduced reaction time
- Nodding off for just seconds
- Hitting a bump strip on the sides or center of the road
- Missing a turn or exit
- Drifting out of a lane
- Pulling the steering wheel sharply to correct your course after waking up
If you are driving or are a passenger with someone else driving, take notice of these warning signs. Pull over as quickly as possible and rest to avoid a car accident.
What Are the Causes of Tired Driving?
The obvious cause of fatigued driving is a general lack of sleep, but drowsy driving can also be caused by:
- Consistent drug or alcohol use
- Sleep disorders
- Use of over-the-counter prescription medications
- Driving too long without taking breaks
- Driving on unlit rural roads for an extended length of time at night
- Being the only one to drive on a road trip or long drive
How Can an Attorney Help Investigate a Car Accident Caused by a Fatigued Driver?
Victims of a driver who causes a crash after falling asleep deserve representation by an experienced car accident lawyer in South Carolina to hold the grossly negligent driver responsible and ensure they receive the maximum compensation for their injuries and losses.