Drowsy Driving Accidents in Pennsylvania

An estimated 1,500 people a year die in drowsy driving accidents, reports the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA cautions that this is a modest estimate because determining an accident was the result of fatigued drivers can be difficult.

Drowsy driving can be the direct result of:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • An untreated sleep disorder
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Medications
  • Long work shifts
  • Night shifts

How common is drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving is far too common, both in Pennsylvania and nationwide. According to the AAA Foundation, one in six crashes in 2010 were the result of drowsy driving. The study, Asleep at the Wheel: The Prevalence and Impact of Drowsy Driving, also stated:

  • Over 40 percent of drivers said that they had fallen asleep or “nodded off” behind the wheel during their lifetime (information taken from a 2002 NHTSA survey).
  • 3.9 percent of people said they had fallen asleep behind the wheel within the last month.
  • People who sleep between six and seven hours a night are twice as likely to cause an accident as those who sleep for eight or more hours a night.

According to 2005 statistics from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), about 168 million adult drivers admit that they, at some point the last year, drove while fatigued. Four percent of drivers said that they were involved or nearly involved in an accident because they were fatigued or fell asleep.

What are the effects of driving drowsy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that any kind of fatigued driving is dangerous to yourself and the drivers around you, even if you stay awake the whole time. Driving while drowsy will negatively impact your:

  • Ability to pay attention to the road
  • Your vision
  • Your reaction time
  • Your decision-making ability

All of these can lead to devastating accidents.

How do I prove another driver was drowsy?

If you or your loved one was involved in a drowsy driving accident, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation. However, you must first be able to establish the following four elements to prove that the other driver behaved negligently:

  • Duty of Care: All drivers have a duty to ensure the safety of others around them.
  • Breach of Duty: The other driver breached his duty by driving drowsy.
  • Causation: The other driver fell asleep and drifted into your lane causing your accident and injuries.
  • Damages: The accident left you with high medical bills and you needed to take time off work to recover.

Depending on the circumstances, negligence can be easy to prove; however, unfortunately, it is usually much more difficult in drowsy driving cases. This is because, unlike with a drunk driving accident, there is no tangible proof, such as a breath test, to prove fatigued driving. However, this does not mean it is impossible. You just need to collect compelling evidence.

What evidence do I need?

If you called the police to the scene, officers will compile an accident report, in which they will determine the likely cause of the accident. They will rely on their extensive training as well as eyewitness reports of the accident.

Eyewitness reports are especially helpful as someone could testify that he saw the driver stopping late, swerving, and yawning right before the accident. If you are able, get the eyewitness’ contact information so you or your lawyer can contact him later.

In addition, if you are lucky, the other driver may even admit that he was fatigued or fell asleep at the wheel. His appearance will likely be helpful as well. If his eyes are droopy or red, the officer may attribute that to fatigue.

If you are able, take pictures of the accident scene. Unless necessary, do not allow anyone to move the vehicles involved. Their position may be telling. By showing that the other driver was in fact in your lane upon impact, the burden of proof shifts to him or her as to why he crossed lanes.

Also look for evidence of evasive actions. A lack of skid marks can help prove the driver was drowsy or fell asleep at the wheel. In most accidents, the driver will make an evasive maneuver, such as slamming on the brakes, to avoid a collision. However, a driver who was asleep at the wheel would have been unable to do so.   

What if you cannot prove drowsy driving?

If you are ultimately unable to show that the at-fault driver was drowsy/fatigued, or fell asleep behind the wheel, this will not destroy your chances of recovering compensation.

You may still be eligible for compensation if you are able to prove that the other driver breached his duty of care in some other fashion, such as drifting into other lanes, swerving, speeding, or driving recklessly. Eyewitness testimony would be very helpful proving these other behaviors.

Take Action and Hire an Attorney for Your Drowsy Driving Case

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, you are eligible to recover compensation for your injuries; however, proving that another driver was drowsy at the time of your accident can be nearly impossible. Do not do it alone. A Pennsylvania car accident attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to prove the other driver’s negligence.

The personal injury attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC have decades of experience getting car accident victims the compensation they need and deserve after an accident caused by another person’s negligence. We would love to help you, too. Give us a call to schedule your free consultation; remember that we work on a contingency basis so you do not pay us a dime until we win your case.

Contact Cordisco & Saile LLC today at 215-486-8196.