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Drowsy Driving and Car Wrecks in Charlotte

Apr 26, 2017 - Car Accidents by

car crash attorney in Charlotte NC

Each year drowsy drivers are, at a conservative minimum, cause of 82,000 crashes nationally.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2014, of those 82,000 crashes, there were 37,000 injuries and 886 deaths. It is estimated, unfortunately, that these statistics are hugely underestimated and that, in fact, up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year occur due to drowsy drivers.  Think you’re not one of them? Think again.  An estimate of 1 in 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep while driving within the past 30 days. These are difficult statistics to swallow, and yet not nearly enough attention is given to it.  It’s time to take this serious because driving while sleeping may not just result in personal injuries, but in legal troubles.

What causes drowsy driving?

Driving for most of us is an essential part of our day.  Some of us drive short distances while other driver long distances. Some of us drive in heavy traffic while others drive on vacant country roads.  Regardless the conditions, driving can make us feel drowsy, thus, the drowsy driving.  You don’t need to start driving already feeling tired, there are many factors that can aid and abet drowsy driving, and these include environmental and emotional factors just as much as the physical factors. 

  • Physical Factors.  Sleepiness, is of course the number one factor associated with drowsy sleeping.  But hunger and dehydration can also lead to situations where you start feeling drowsy while driving.  
  • Emotional or Social Factors.  Are your stressed or depressed while driving? Alternatively, are you feeling invincible? Are you driving alone as opposed to with family or friends?  Are you driving after a social event where you had a drink of alcohol?  All of these factors can contribute to drowsy driving.
  • Environmental Factors.  Do you work the late night shift, or do you drive at night for work? These and other environmental factors can contribute to drowsy driving.

Do any of these conditions affect you?  Probably.  So many of us are sleep-deprived, stressed, or working a bit too much and returning home late.  So, just because you haven’t fallen asleep at the wheel yet, you need to take steps to make sure you don’t fall asleep at the wheel.

What makes drowsy driving so dangerous?

Apart from the obvious reason drowsy driving is so dangerous: falling asleep at the wheel, there are other reasons to be alarmed by drowsy driving.   A driver’s reaction times are slowed.  You are not as alert as you should be.  Focusing on driving becomes a problem.  You can become distracted easily or you may do things to distract yourself intentionally so that you don’t fall asleep.  

Is there a law against driving while drowsy?

Yes.  But not in North Carolina.  

The light was shone on the important issue of drowsy driving back in 1997.  That year, in New Jersey, Maggie McDonnell was killed when a drowsy driver struck her car.  He had been awake for 30 hours. He crossed three lanes of traffic before striking her car head on.  The driver was prosecuted, but he received a mere $200 fine and a suspended jail sentence; there was no law against driving while drowsy.  Maggie’s mother lobbied for a law that would punish drowsy drivers, and she succeeded. 

The law is known in New Jersey and throughout the country as “Maggie’s Law.”  Since then 7 other states have enacted drowsy while driving laws, most of which designate certain times throughout the year to raise drowsy driving awareness.  Only New Jersey and Arkansas laws actually criminalize drowsy driving, though.  Since 1997, there have been many bills introduced throughout the country that do, indeed, create offenses if enacted.

Though there is no law criminalizing drowsy driving, that such laws exist demonstrate the importance of the issue and the need for drivers, who owe a duty of care for other drivers, to address it more seriously.  Maggie’s Law was the first real move toward recognition that sleepiness, drowsiness, and/or fatigue impairs your ability to drive along the same lines as driving while intoxicated.

Do I need an attorney?

As always, when there’s a car wreck, particularly one that results in personal injuries, an attorney is almost always preferred.  Though, if you were driving while drowsy at the time of the collision, chances are you were the cause of the wreck.  That said, even if you were not the cause of the collision, your drowsy driving may have contributed.  If so, you may be responsible for all of your own damages.  To fight it, you require an experienced attorney.

On the other hand, if you were in a car wreck that was caused by a drowsy driver, an attorney will help you understand your legal rights and can outline the options you have to pursue a legal remedy. Contact a determined car accident lawyer in Charlotte, NC at Brown Moore & Associates, LLC, if you have been injured in an accident and seek experienced lawyers to represent you and your interests.