Many people use tiredness and fatigue interchangeably. However, the two are very different.
You might feel tired at the end of the day or after doing something very physical. By comparison, fatigue is when you have no energy or feel tired even after a good night’s sleep.
Fatigue could last less than a month, or it could be chronic when it lasts for over a month, even over six months. Being fatigued can affect your quality of life.
Regardless of whether you are fatigued, you are drowsy. Drowsy driving can cause injury and fatal accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 2 percent of fatal accidents are because people drive while fatigued.
Causes and Effects of New Orleans Driver Fatigue
A driver is more likely to suffer from fatigue if they are awake for many consecutive hours or don’t get enough sleep every day. Monotonous tasks, such as driving long distances, can cause tiredness or fatigue. Finally, a person’s health could contribute to fatigue.
For those that have a sleep disorder or take medications that cause drowsiness, being tired day after day leads to chronic fatigue.
While driving, a fatigued person or someone who is simply tired feel the same effects, including:
- Nodding off while driving down the road.
- Decision-making becomes poor.
- Reaction time to other drivers, pedestrians, and even changing road conditions slows.
- The driver can’t remember the last few miles of driving.
- The driver drifts from their lane.
- The driver’s peripheral vision significantly decreases.
- The driver falls asleep for fractions of a second to 30 seconds.
- The driver finds it difficult to pay attention and concentrate.
If you doze off for 30 seconds at 65 miles per hour, you will travel 2,859 feet—more than a half-mile. At highway speeds, anything and everything could happen in that 30 seconds.
How to Avoid Driving While Tired
Drivers can take several steps to avoid driving while they are tired.
- Be sure to get enough sleep before you head out on the road, especially for longer trips. If you must drive and did not get a good night’s sleep, consider having someone else drive you.
- Avoid driving when your circadian rhythm says you should be asleep. For most people, that is between midnight and 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- Eat healthily. Skipping meals or eating irregularly could lead to tiredness and food cravings. Sleeping after a full meal or on an empty stomach could interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.
- Know the signs of drowsiness, including heavy eyes, yawning, and blurred vision. If you feel you must have caffeine, turn up the radio, or open the window to stay awake, it’s time to pull off the road.
- Never rely on the alertness tricks mentioned above to stay awake. Tricking your body into thinking you are alert never works, and you could nod off immediately.
- If you start feeling drowsy while driving, pull off the road and take a nap for at least 30 minutes. You could sleep as little as 10 minutes, but the ideal time to restore yourself is 45 minutes. Additionally, wait for at least 15 minutes after waking up before you start driving again.
- Avoid taking any medication that induces drowsiness. Most prescriptions will have a warning on the label. However, know your body—while a certain medication might not make most people drowsy, it could have that effect on you.
How Employers Can Prevent Workers Accident Because of Fatigue or Tiredness
Many tired drivers drive for a living. Truckers must abide by federal hours-of-service regulations to minimize fatigued drivers and accidents. However, local drivers do not have to abide by the hours-of-service regulations since they normally drive for a day, then go home each night.
Employers and drivers can prevent driver fatigue while on the job. Employers should implement policies that limit overtime and consecutive driving shifts by hiring sufficient staff to cover all driving positions. If drivers have to work overtime, the employer should allow for more rest breaks where drivers can nap on long shifts.
As part of employee training, employers should hold fatigue management and sleep health modules. Employers could also implement sleep disorder screenings for employees. They should also encourage employees to report when they feel tired when driving.
Employers can also install in-vehicle monitoring systems to detect whether an employee driver is driving fatigued.
Employees should ensure that they get at least seven hours of sleep every night. This includes planning off-time activities to allow the employee to get plenty of sleep on work nights. If an employee cannot seem to stay alert, they should see a doctor about sleep disorders. If during the driving shift, an employee feels drowsy, they should pull off the road for a 15-minute nap. And always let employers know when having trouble staying awake while driving.
When Tiredness Lasts
If you notice yourself feeling tired day in and day out, you could have fatigue instead of tiredness. If you are not sleeping well or wake up often during the night, you should have a doctor check you for a sleep disorder before you get into a wreck while driving. If you have to drive for a long distance, allow someone else to drive until you get the fatigue under control.
If you drive for a living, whether it’s a tractor-trailer or do local deliveries, be sure to alert your employer. Your supervisor should allow you to work in the office for a day or two or switch out with other drivers for a day off.
Investigating a New Orleans Car Driver Fatigue Accident
Since the police can’t give a driver a test for fatigued driving, it is sometimes difficult to determine negligence. However, investigators do have ways to tell if the driver who hit you caused the accident by falling asleep at the wheel.
An investigator might look for:
- Witnesses to the driver’s behavior before the wreck. If witnesses say the driver drifted, could not maintain a consistent speed, and/or exhibited erratic movements right before the wreck, there is a possibility that the driver was fatigued.
- Surveillance and traffic cameras might capture the interior of a vehicle, showing whether the driver was falling asleep.
- The police also investigate. If police find evidence that the driver was tired, or the driver admits it, the police officer will include it in the accident report.
- The driver has no memory of the seconds or minutes leading up to the accident.
- Cell phone records could show that a driver drove a long distance without stopping to rest.
A New Orleans car accident attorney can help uncover evidence that shows whether a drowsy driver caused the accident and help recover the compensation you deserve.
Fatigued Driving Accident Injuries
When a fatigued driver causes an accident, injuries to innocent victims could be devastating. When a driver falls asleep at the wheel, the driver does not know what is happening—they could significantly increase speed, veer into other vehicles, or unexpectedly slow down so quickly that even vehicles following a good distance behind the driver get caught up in the ensuing wreck.
Accident injuries could range from minor to catastrophic depending on several factors, including speed, the number of vehicles involved, the size and types of the vehicles, and how another vehicle hits your vehicle.
Injuries could include:
- Bumps, scratches, cuts, and bruises
- Road rash
- Face and eye injuries
- Thermal and/or chemical burns
- Internal injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries, including whiplash
- Traumatic brain injuries, including mild and severe concussions
- Amputation of a digit or limb
- Back and spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
- Strains and sprains
- Pulled and/or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections of open wounds caused during the accident or during surgery to repair accident injuries. These injuries are more common in those with a compromised immune system, which causes wounds to take longer to heal. A person’s immune system could be compromised from an illness such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes or from taking medications, such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Other common secondary injuries result from ambulatory injuries. For example, if you injure your hip or knee, you could cause issues with your back.
Recovering Damages After a New Orleans Car Driver Fatigue Accident
The amount of compensation you could recover after an accident depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether you can prove negligence or gross negligence. You could recover punitive damages and compensatory damages, which include economic and non-economic damages.
#1. Economic Damages
Special damages, often called economic damages, have a monetary value.
Most accident victims recover economic damages, including:
- Medical expenses: You could recover medical expenses incurred before a settlement or trial award, plus those you expect to incur after a settlement or trial award, including expenses for doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, ambulatory aids, prescriptions, hand controls for a vehicle, and upgrades to your home, including grab bars, widened doors and hallways, and wheelchair ramps.
- Lost wages: In addition to the wages you lose from recovering from the accident, you could also collect loss of earning capacity if your injuries result in long-term or permanent disabilities that do not allow you to work or that force you to work part-time or in a lower-paying position.
- Personal property: The at-fault driver is responsible for repairing or replacing any personal property, including your vehicle and items of value in it.
- After-Death Expenses: Your spouse, children, or estate could recover funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. Additionally, they could recover certain costs related to filing a probate case, such as court filing fees.
#2. Non-Economic Damages
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a firm monetary value attached. Usually, accident victims who suffer injuries that lead to long-term or permanent physical or emotional disabilities or family members who lost a spouse, child, or parent can recover non-economic damages.
Since exceptions apply to just about everything in life, even if you do not believe you could recover non-economic damages, always discuss the compensation you deserve with your car accident lawyer.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make major life changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or an arm.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight, bladder, or bowels.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family events and activities.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as home repair and maintenance, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and house cleaning.
#3. Punitive Damages
If the investigation into your case finds that the at-fault driver’s actions and inactions were grossly negligent, the court might order the defendant to pay punitive damages. The court only orders a defendant to pay punitive damages to punish the defendant’s behavior, hoping that the award deters the defendant and others from doing what caused the accident.
If you or your friends or loved ones are facing legal difficulties related to driver fatigue in New Orleans, you should find and get in touch with a New Orleans car accident attorney for a free consultation and get to know about your legal options.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.