Houston Car Driver Fatigue

Houston Car Driver Fatigue

The hustle and bustle of Houston can often make for exhausting days, indirectly leading to a growing menace on the city's roads — driver fatigue. When an over-exhausted person decides to get behind the wheel, potentially severe consequences may follow, endangering not only their life but also the lives of others sharing the road. Fatigued driving is so dangerous, in fact, that fatigue is estimated to contribute to 6,000 fatal accidents every year. 

Most Houston drivers have no idea about the risks they run when they drive tired or share the road with other drivers who feel fatigued. This guide aims to shed light on this phenomenon, driving the conversation forward on this pivotal facet of road safety. More importantly, if you’ve been involved in an accident with a drowsy driver, reach out to a Houston car accident attorney to learn about your rights to compensation. 

Tired in Houston? You’re Not Alone.

Houston driver fatigue lawyer

According to the public health researchers at County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, nearly four in 10 Houston-area adults (38%) report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night regularly. That’s less than recommended. Sleep doctors agree that the vast majority of adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Anything less, and your mental and physical health begin to deteriorate. 

With insufficient sleep, you’re less alert, make poorer decisions, experience higher levels of stress, and, over the long term, develop a host of serious and potentially deadly health complications, like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. 

Maybe you think you’re one of those people who only need five or six hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately,  you’re probably not. After adjusting for age, only a tiny fraction of adults can remain in good health while getting that little sleep, and they can do so thanks to a genetic mutation. Sure, lots of people think they can do without enough rest, but most simply can’t and may be putting themselves and others at risk.

Driving Drowsy Can Prove Extremely Dangerous.

Drowsy drivers put themselves and others in danger when they take to the roads around Houston. Driver fatigue leads to a significant decline in vehicle operation skills. Fatigue can adversely affect drivers' reaction times, decision-making ability, and overall attention. Tired drivers can fall asleep behind the wheel, fail to notice other vehicles or pedestrians, neglect road signals, or lose control of their vehicles.

The shocking reality is that 1 in 25 Americans report having fallen asleep at the wheel. However,  drowsiness can impair your driving abilities even if you stay awake at the wheel. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), staying awake for 18 hours straight impairs your driving abilities about the same as having a 0.05 blood alcohol content (BAC), which is just below the legal limit of 0.08, and that drivers who remain awake for 24 hours straight face the same impairment as someone who would blow a 0.10 on a breathalyzer. You read that right. Drowsy drivers may as well be drunk drivers. Drivers experience similar forms of impairment, including:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Poor judgment
  • Fuzzy decision-making
  • Diminished visual acuity
  • Distorted perception of speed and distance

Drowsy drivers may also experience momentary periods of sleep, called microsleeps, without even realizing it’s happening. In the few seconds that these microsleeps take place, a car can cover a hundred yards or more at highway speed. That’s more than enough distance for something terrible to happen. These microsleeps can happen over and over as the driver fights unsuccessfully to stay awake and alert, and there’s also no quick fix for drowsiness once it sets in. Caffeine and other stimulants only mask the symptoms of fatigue. They do not address the underlying deficits and impairments that continue to get worse. Once their temporary effects wear off, the driver experiences an even greater decline in his or her abilities, making an accident an even more likely consequence of fatigue.  

Symptoms of Driver Fatigue

How to recognize a drowsy driver

Driver fatigue or drowsiness is a state of feeling extremely tired, exhausted, or lethargic, rendering a driver incapable of operating a vehicle safely. It can be bidden by various causes, particularly lack of sleep. However, other factors, such as long hours of driving without breaks, driving late at night, or early in the morning when the body naturally craves sleep, and certain medications, may also contribute to driver fatigue.

Physical indications of driver fatigue could include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning or rubbing of the eyes, and headaches. In addition, drivers may experience trouble focusing on the road, maintaining a consistent speed, or keeping the vehicle within the right lane. Some fatigue-stricken drivers, alarmingly, do not even recall the last few miles driven.

Mental signs of fatigue can be equally alarming. Lack of alertness, slow reaction times, poor judgment calls, or a sense of restlessness are all red flags. Often, drivers tend to underestimate their level of fatigue, imagining they can ‘push through’ the drowsiness. Recognizing these signs early can prevent potential accidents and foster much-needed road safety awareness.

Drowsy Driving is a Serious Problem in Houston

Unfortunately, if you live in Houston, you face higher-than-average risks from drowsy drivers. According to data on fatal car accidents from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Texas has the drowsiest drivers in the nation. Over nine years, 22%, which constitutes more than one-fifth, of all drowsy driving-related fatal car accidents in the country happened in the Lone Star State, even though only around 9% of the total U.S. population calls Texas home. 

Additionally, Texas experiences a rate of drowsy driving accidents ten times higher than the average in all other states. The greater Houston area saw 47 fatal crashes related to driver fatigue in just one year. 

Still, fatal accidents only tell part of the story. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) keeps its own database of crash reports, called the Crash Records Information System (CRIS), which catalogs data from police accident reports across the state. We queried CRIS for data on accidents in which police identified drowsy driving as a contributing factor or possible contributing factor over nine years, and this is what we found:

  • Statewide, police reported 48,076 crashes that listed drowsy driving as a known contributing factor and 19,606 crashes that listed it as a possible contributing factor. 1,265 of those crashes resulted in fatalities, and 3,926 involved serious injuries. Many more involved lesser or unknown injuries.
  • Within the Houston city limits, police reported 867 crashes known to involve drowsy driving and an additional 1,511 crashes in which police suspected drowsy driving. 9 of those accidents resulted in fatalities, and 59 involved serious injuries. Again, many more involved lesser or unknown injuries.

Fatigued Driving and Texas Law

While Texas state law does not directly address the issue of driving while fatigued, the consequences of causing an accident due to lack of sleep could still entail serious legal repercussions. Particularly in the case where the driver was clearly fatigued yet chose to drive anyway, it could potentially result in that person being held liable for damage caused by negligence.

Under the Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.401, a driver is legally negligent if he or she operates a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. If a reckless driver causes an accident resulting in injury or property damage, they could face serious charges. Under Texas law, anyone whose careless or reckless conduct causes an accident will generally owe damages to those they harm. A car driver who knows they are fatigued to the point of impairment but gets or stays behind the wheel anyway should face legal and financial accountability if that fatigue causes a crash to no less of a degree than a drunk driver

Moreover, if a fatigued commercial driver, such as a truck driver, is involved, regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limit the hours these drivers can be on the road without break periods. Violation of these rules can further contribute to establishing negligence.

The legal consequences of causing an accident while driving fatigued could range from fines to jail time, depending on the severity of the accident. Skilled Houston car accident lawyers know that driver fatigue can contribute to the cause of just about any crash and can help you obtain compensation after such an accident. 

How to Recognize a Drowsy Driver

Identifying a drowsy driver can save lives by preventing fatigue-related accidents. While it may not be as evident as spotting a reckless or drunk driver, certain indications suggest a driver might be fatigued:

  • Drifting and Swerving: Drowsy drivers often have difficulty staying in the correct lane, leading to swerving or completely drifting into other lanes. These erratic movements rarely align with the road’s curves, making it easier to identify the issue.
  • Too Close for Comfort: A tired driver might follow too closely behind other vehicles due to impaired judgment.
  • Inconsistent Speed: Frequently changing speeds or going significantly below the speed limit can be a sign of fatigue, with the driver struggling to maintain the vehicle's control.
  • Missed Exits or Traffic Signs: Drowsy drivers may not observe or react to traffic signs or might miss exits due to a lack of attention and slow reaction times.
  • Late-night, Early Morning, or Mid-afternoon Drivers: These time frames align with the body's natural sleep rhythms and are considered peak times for fatigued driving incidents. Data shows that a large portion of drowsy driving accidents in Houston happen between midnight and 9 a.m. when a large portion of Houston’s daytime population is getting home late or heading into town for work.

When you notice such behavior from another driver in Houston, it is advisable to keep a safe distance and contact local authorities if it seems dangerous. Your efforts can contribute to a safer driving environment for everyone on the road.

How a Houston Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You After a Drowsy Driving Accident

car accident case

At Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial hardships that can arise from a fatigue-related accident. Our dedicated team is prepared to fight for your rights and ensure that you are duly compensated for your sufferings and losses.

Our skilled attorneys can help discern if the other driver was fatigued and, thus, negligent, leading to the accident. We have access to resources and professional contacts to effectively gather and analyze vital evidence, building a strong case in your favor.

While dealing with recovery, the last thing you need is the added stress of battling insurance companies to receive the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys can take this burden off your shoulders. We will negotiate assertively on your behalf, leveraging our in-depth understanding of Texas insurance laws to ensure you get a fair settlement.

And in circumstances where a fair agreement cannot be reached outside of court, our experienced litigators are prepared to take your case to trial. Your rights will be fiercely defended every step of the way.

In essence, we provide comprehensive legal services tailored to your unique circumstances. Our commitment is to make your path to recovery smoother and less stressful. Reach out to us today to discuss your legal options and find out how we can assist you.

What to Do if You Suspect Drowsy Driving Caused a Crash

Car Accident Attorney, Stewart J. Guss

It’s not always easy to know if a car driver’s fatigue caused a crash that injured you or your loved one. In most cases, a crash tends to jolt even the most exhausted driver awake, masking the fatigue that led to a crash moments beforehand. Instead, it may take a careful review of the evidence by a team of experienced legal professionals to identify the telltale signs that an accident stemmed from driver drowsiness. 

If you get into an accident in Houston, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. You should first prioritize seeing a doctor to evaluate and document your injuries. After that, you should contact an experienced Houston car accident lawyer. The sooner an attorney can get started collecting evidence, the better your chances of uncovering a driver’s fatigue as the root cause of the crash that inflicted pain, expense, and loss on you and your family.