Any of us can be tired on a given day. Some people, however, might be especially exhausted because they were up all night with a sick child, because they suffer from chronic insomnia or for other reasons. Some motorists end up behind the wheel of a car when they are too tired to drive safely. In some cases, they may fall asleep at the wheel or they simply have poorer driving skills than they otherwise would.
Exhaustion may play a part in a significant number of crashes each year. But unlike drunk driving or some forms of distracted driving, there is no effective way to prohibit fatigued driving. Although there may not be a law against driving while drowsy, evidence of sleepiness could help establish liability for a crash caused by a fatigued driver.
Drowsiness can impair driving much like alcohol
The effects of driving while tired are actually quite similar to the effects of alcohol. The National Sleep Foundation compares driving after staying awake for 18 hours in a row as comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent, which means there are likely to be noticeable decreases in driving ability.
Driving after staying awake for 24 hours is like driving with a BAC of .10 percent, which is over the legal limit of .08 percent. In other words, driving after a full day of no sleep is like driving when legally intoxicated. The risk of an otherwise preventable crash or collision increases substantially, leaving everyone on the road in danger.
The effects of exhaustion are similar to those of alcohol in many cases. Impaired focus on the road and delayed decision-making is common in both situations. That can lead to an increased risk of a crash. For drowsy drivers, there is also the potential to actually fall asleep at the wheel, potentially while traveling at high speeds.
Exhaustion affects commercial drivers
People who drive commercial trucks may experience exhaustion while at the wheel. There are laws in place that aim to reduce fatigued commercial driving, such as limits on how long one person can drive before a 10 hour break. These rules can prevent systemic abuse by transportation companies that could otherwise try to make drivers work for an unsafe number of hours.
Even with rules in place, there is always the potential for a commercial driver to intentionally bend or break rules that limit driving times. These choices can put other drivers at increased risk for a crash, especially when you consider the large blind spots, wide turns and long stopping distances of commercial trucks.