Commuting to work while still drowsy after a night of fitful sleep could be a recipe for an accident. Drowsy driving is the cause of many California car accidents, but often goes underreported. When another driver causes an accident while suffering from severe fatigue it can be difficult to prove.
A recent Sacramento accident involved a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel, according to the California Highway Patrol. The early April morning crash occurred when the driver went off the road and crashed into a tree. Because of the timing of the accident, it is possible the driver was commuting to work. In this case, traffic was temporarily blocked, but no other cars were involved.
From 2000 to 2010, approximately 11,000 accidents involved drowsy driving, according to federal statistics. Experts warn that this number underestimates the problem, because no test exists to quantify drowsy driving.
Law enforcement can rather easily determine driver alcohol impairment through testing. A cell phone record shows if a driver was talking on the phone or texting prior to an accident. Unfortunately, with drowsy driving no standard measure exists. This makes it difficult to pass effective legislation to target the problem.
New Jersey is the only state to address the problem with legislation called "Maggie's Law," which allows prosecutors to use the fact that a driver was awake for 24 consecutive hours to prove recklessness. Massachusetts considered a law, but decided to try increased education and adding rumble strips on the sides of roads.
Drivers of commercial vehicles on the other hand must follow rules that regulate the amount of time they spend behind the wheel. The rules are a step toward safety, but do not account for drowsy driving caused by sleep problems such as sleep apnea.
Commercial driver hours-of-service limits
Tractor-trailer drivers can drive a maximum of 11 continuous hours in a day. Drivers of buses or vehicles that carry passengers can only drive ten hours per day.
As of July 1, 2013, commercial drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours. Between working weeks, drivers must also have two overnight periods (1 a.m. - 5 a.m.) of home terminal time. The new regulations seek to reduce the number of bus and truck accidents caused by drowsy drivers. Commercial drivers keep detailed logs of their time behind the wheel that may show violations of the hours-of-service rule.
Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after the accident is important. As time passes, it becomes more difficult to collect evidence and interview those who witnessed what happened. When there are suspicions that a drowsy driver caused a crash, witnesses may be helpful in proving the other driver's fatigue caused the accident.
When the other driver's negligence caused the accident, you may be entitled to receive payment for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.