The dangers of fatigued driving

Fatigue slows down reaction times and hampers decision making, but studies suggest that an alarming number of drivers in Texas and around the country are unconcerned by these risks. Six out of 10 of the motorists polled by the National Sleep Foundation admitted to drowsy driving, and more than a third said that they had fallen asleep while behind the wheel at least once. This disturbs road safety advocates because a driver who has not slept for 24 hours is as impaired as a motorist with a blood alcohol content of .10 percent.

Another study conducted on behalf of the American Automobile Association suggests that government crash statistics may not be painting a complete picture. After studying in-vehicle video footage recorded just moments before collisions occurred, researchers concluded that the percentage of accidents involving drowsy drivers could be as much as eight times higher than figures from agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate.

Fatigued drivers often open a window, turn up their stereos or pull over for a cup of coffee to perk themselves up, but these measures have little effect and can often do more harm than good. While naps of 20 or 30 minutes may be enough to help a tired driver recover sufficiently to complete a journey, sleep experts say that the only cure for dangerous levels of fatigue is prolonged periods of uninterrupted rest.

Proving that an individual was asleep when they crashed can be difficult, which is one of the reasons that vehicular homicide prosecutions involving fatigued drivers are rare. However, the burden of proof is not as strict in civil courts. Experienced personal injury attorneys must only convince juries that their accounts of the events in question are more likely true than false, and they may seek to meet this standard in fatigued driving cases by establishing that no evasive action was taken to avoid a crash.

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