A Massachusetts woman who killed a 20 year old and injured his brother back in September was recently charged with “driver fatigue”. She was driving in the right-hand travel lane on Boston Street in Lynn when she spotted two people facing each other and standing in the road. Although she tried to stop, her vehicle hit them going about 30 miles per hour.
Both of the driver’s victims were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital; the one who survived the crash is recovering from hip and rib injuries and a punctured lung. The police examined the driver’s cell phone records and saw that her phone had been used steadily over a 24 hour period with only short periods during which it recorded no activity.
Police Officer John Meaney explained in a report, ”I believe that the records indicate that [the defendant] was awake during this time and as a result she would have been fatigued from lack of sleep.”
While it is not as stigmatized as drunk driving, driving while drowsy is a major cause of vehicle accidents and personal injuries. A conservative estimate finds that 100,000 police-reported crashes, leading to 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries, stem from driver fatigue every year. This is a conservative estimate because unlike with drunk driving, there is no test to determine sleepiness, states vary dramatically in how well they report crashes due to driver fatigue, and self-reporting is unreliable. In support of the last point, only four percent of adults admit that they nearly got into an accident or did, in fact, get into an accident because they were sleepy. But one-fourth of adults in America say they know someone personally who crashed because he or she fell asleep behind the wheel.
The National Sleep Foundation has reported that 60% of adult drivers have admitted they drove while drowsy and more than one-third of this group have actually fallen asleep at the wheel, and 13% admit they do so once a month. Not sleeping for over 24 hours, as the woman described above did, is the same as having a blood alcohol content level of .10, higher than the .08 that is the legal limit.
While researchers believe people fall asleep more on rural highways–for lack of stimulation, probably–people who live in urban areas are more likely to fall asleep than are people in rural or suburban areas. Moreover, sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who sleep less than 5 hours a night are four to five times as likely to crash as people who get 8 hours or more sleep.
Those who drive while fatigued are not driving reasonably. The accidents they get into could be avoided by getting more rest. Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove fatigue, unless there is a smoking gun, like the cell phone records of the woman described above. Those who sustain serious injuries or lose their lives in car accidents as a result of fatigued drivers–including bus and commercial truck drivers– need an knowledgeable and diligent personal injury attorney to prove negligence. If successful, those injured can be compensated for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other aspects of their loss.
SUGARMAN has extensive experience in investigating and litigating vehicle accidents that result in serious injuries, including those that arise from fatigued driving. To contact us, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail email@example.com.
Taxi Cab Liability, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, April 10, 2013
Airline Liability for Personal Injury or Death on International Flights, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, March 18, 2013