Sleep-Deprived Driving Has Reached Epidemic Proportions – Is There a Solution?
Although sleep-deprived driving has long been a serious issue, the magnitude of the problem has now reached an epidemic level. While statistical data on accidents caused by sleep-deprived drivers can be difficult to quantify, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 328,000 collisions each year are caused by drowsiness, which includes 100,000 injury accidents and 6,400 fatality crashes. The organization also indicates that over-tired motorists account for one in five fatal accidents. While a recent symposium conducted by Harvard Medical School entitled "Asleep at the Wheel" suggested that self-driving vehicles might offer a solution, this long-term approach was not considered an adequate answer in the short-term. At the symposium, presenters pointed out that even if we had a perfectly functioning autonomous car on the market today, the technology would take thirty years to fill our roads and highways. Participants also noted that the problem could no longer be solved with small incremental steps.
Sleep-Deprived Drivers Can Be Held Financially Responsible for Causing Injuries or Deaths
When a driver is too tired but insists on continuing to drive, the motorist can be held legally responsible for the consequences of this unsafe choice. Motorists have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care while driving, which includes not getting behind the wheel when dozing off or when they are too tired to pay attention. When a driver does not pull over and nap, postpone the trip, or take other steps to avoid driving while drowsy, the motorist can be found liable for personal injuries, wrongful death, and any property damage he or she causes.
Atlanta Car Accident Attorneys Note Few Ineffective Drowsy Driving Laws Exist
Although traffic safety experts increasingly report that the fatigued driving problem has reached a crisis stage, policymakers have been slow to take action to mitigate this serious risk. A recent article in the Huffington Post noted that only two states have laws aimed at non-commercial motorists driving while fatigued. The article further notes that the laws are tough to enforce and are largely symbolic measures.
New Jersey was the state first to pass a law regarding operating a vehicle when sleep-deprived, which is referred to as "Maggie's Law." This law provides that a motorist who causes a fatal accident after not sleeping for over 24 hours can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. While the law might sound tough, only a single driver has been prosecuted under the statute since its adoption in 2003 because proving 24 hours of sleeplessness is extremely difficult. Unless the driver admits to a violation, law enforcement officers and prosecutors have little chance to prove a crash was caused by drowsiness unless a witness happens to observe a driver actually slouched and sleeping behind the wheel.
The facts that gave rise to Maggie's Law demonstrate the importance of developing effective strategies to discourage drowsy driving and the tragic consequences of this irresponsible behavior. The law was championed by a mother whose daughter died in a car crash caused by a motorist high on crack who had not slept during the prior thirty hours. The motorist's punishment was a meager $200 fine because the jury could not consider driver fatigue as a factor of guilt according to the Huffington Post report.
In some respects, the challenge of mitigating the risk posed by drowsy driving is more complicated than developing solutions for drunk or distracted driving. The task of identifying sleep-deprived drivers falls almost entirely on law enforcement officers. Unless a driver admits that he or she is overly tired, lack of sleep can be very difficult to prove. While substance-impaired drivers can be screened through chemical screening of breath, blood or urine, field sobriety tests, and personal observation of physical symptoms, sleep deprivation cannot be detected through these types of screening methods. Similarly, motorists who drive erratically or cause an accident because they are texting or talking on a cell phone will have phone records that can corroborate their unsafe activity.
Put Our Firm's Over 35 Years of Legal Experience to Work for You
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a sleep deprived or otherwise unsafe driver, or you have lost a loved one, our experienced car accident attorneys located in Atlanta work diligently on behalf of our clients to maximize their recovery within the bounds of the law. The law firm of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been representing those who suffer serious injuries in Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.
Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law
17 Executive Park Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
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