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Driving while tired is dangerous and may pose a danger to others on the road. If another driver fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident with you, we may be able to help.
Drowsy driving is a serious problem in Denver and throughout the United States. Even if you are a careful driver, you may still be involved in a car accident with someone who fell asleep while driving.
The Dangers of Falling Asleep at the Wheel
Drowsy driving is a form of distracted and impaired driving that negatively affects the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. While most people think of driving under the influence as the only kind of impaired driving, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous. Falling asleep at the wheel is not the only danger. Driving tired will affect the driver’s alertness, reaction time, attention, and judgment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study (NMVCCS) shows that drowsy drivers are twice as likely to make performance errors compared to drivers who are not fatigued. In 2014, there were 846 fatalities related to falling asleep at the wheel accidents. Between 2005 and 2009, there were an estimated 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving. In the last decade, more than 7,000 people have been killed by drowsy driving accidents.
The NHTSA reported in a 2002 study that 37% of people reported having fallen asleep at the wheel or nodded off at some point while driving in their lifetime. Young male drivers ages 17-23 were more likely to report falling asleep or feeling drowsy while sleeping. Those who slept less than six hours or who worked nights, or long or irregular hours were more likely to be at risk for driving drowsy.
Accidents Due to Drowsy Driving
While drowsy driving can occur any time of day, they most often occur and cause crashes between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., when most people are used to sleeping. Many drivers also feel drowsy in the late afternoon. Most car crashes resulting from drowsy driving involve only a single vehicle with no other passengers. The accidents usually involve the vehicle running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking, most often on rural roads and highways.
Temporary lack of sleep or continued sleep deprivation significantly impairs driving abilities. The driver may not react quickly enough to hazards in the road or may drift out of their lane and into other drivers. Lack of sleep may cause the driver to lose good judgment because they are not able to focus on driving. This could lead to failing to follow traffic signs and signals or driving in the wrong direction.
Common Injuries in a Car Crash
A car crash with a driver who was asleep at the wheel may be catastrophic if they did not brake or try to avoid hitting you. This means that they may be driving very fast when they hit your vehicle. Car crashes can lead to serious and life-changing injuries. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Paralysis or spine damage
- Brain damage
- Internal injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Wrongful death
Colorado’s Drowsy Driving Laws
Most jurisdictions have laws that prohibit reckless driving. Driving sleep-deprived can be considered reckless driving because the driver is showing a willful disregard for the safety of others. Driving while drowsy and refusing to rest or pull over shows that the driver deliberately disregarded the safety of others on the road. If a driver fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident with you, the driver might be cited for reckless driving.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Colorado. While there is no specific law against driving while tired, choosing to do so can demonstrate recklessness in some circumstances. If the other driver fell asleep at the wheel because of drugs or alcohol, they may be charged with a DUI.
Signs of Being Too Tired to Drive
Warning signs that can indicate a driver is too tired to drive may include:
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open
- Consistent yawning
- Having trouble focusing on the road
- Eyes are continuously closing
- Forgetting where you are going or missing a turn or exit
- Delayed reaction times
- Not paying attention to surroundings
- Thinking about sleep
- Drifting out of your lane or swerving into oncoming traffic
- Sudden breaking
- Irritability or impatience
- Excessive speeds
How to Spot a Drowsy Driver
If you suspect someone is driving impaired, either driving under the influence or driving drowsy, call 911 immediately to report them to the police. You may be able to control how careful you are on the road, but you cannot prevent others from failing to exercise the same caution. Driving drowsy puts everyone else on the road at risk. The following signs may indicate a drowsy driver:
- Swerving between lanes
- Slowly drifting into other lanes
- Driving too slowly or speeding
- Sudden stopping and starting
- Seeing the driver nodding their head or sleeping
Falling Asleep at the Wheel Lawsuit
You may have a claim against someone who hit you as a result of them falling asleep behind the wheel. The basis of your claim will generally be negligence. Driving while sleep-deprived likely demonstrates negligence. You must be able to prove that the driver acted negligently to succeed in your lawsuit.
To win your lawsuit, you must be able to prove that the driver owed a duty to you. Operating a vehicle safely on the road as a reasonable person would do is an example of a duty. You must then be able to show that that duty was breached, and because of that breach, you were injured. Driving with too little sleep would be a breach of that duty, and if this caused the accident with you, then you likely have a strong negligence claim.
Proving the driver was tired or asleep at the wheel may be the most difficult part. You will need proof from either the driver admitting to the police or other witnesses that they were falling asleep while driving. A lack of break marks leading up to the crash could indicate that they did not try to stop because they were not paying attention or were sleeping. Alternatively, you may be able to ask them under oath if they had much sleep prior to driving that day and what their schedule was like leading up to the accident.
These factors are why it is important to hire an experienced Denver attorney who knows how to handle accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel. There are many details involved and the case can become complex. An attorney may be able to help you gather important evidence to prove that the other driver is responsible for the accident and liable to you for damages.
Tips for Staying Alert
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends the following tips for staying alert while driving:
- Get plenty of sleep before a long drive
- Travel during your normal waking hours rather than overnight
- Take breaks every few hours of driving
- Pull over immediately if you feel sleepy
- Do not plan to work before a long drive without resting first
- Drink a caffeinated beverage
- Travel with a passenger who agrees to stay awake with you
What Types of Compensation Can I Seek?
Depending on the severity of your case, you may be able to recover for your damages suffered. You may be able to seek damages for medical bills, prescription medications, medical devices, and any health care costs incurred in the future related to your injuries. If your vehicle was damaged, you may be able to recover repair costs the cost to replace. If you can no longer work, your lost wages may be recoverable.
Do not accept a settlement offer from any insurance agency before you have spoken to an experienced Denver car accident lawyer first. Insurance companies often try to settle for a lower amount than you could receive after calculating all of your damages. Allow yourself time to determine the extent of your damages before agreeing to any settlement.
Get Help from Denver Car Accident Attorneys
At Zinda Law Group, our Denver car accident attorneys are experienced and have handled many cases involving accidents with those who fell asleep at the wheel. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.
Call us today at (800) 863-5312 for a free and confidential consultation with one of our car accident lawyers. You will pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee. Check out our blog for more helpful resources.
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