Fatigue has a serious impact on driving abilities. Unfortunately, West Palm Beach sees many fatigued drivers on its roads every day, including those passing through on I-95, navigating traffic on Okeechobee Boulevard, or looking for addresses in Northwood. Those fatigued drivers increase accident risks not just for themselves, but for other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians who have to share the road with them.
The Challenges Posed by Driver Fatigue in West Palm Beach
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive fatigue can impair driving ability in much the same way intoxication does. In fact, studies have shown that a driver who has been awake for 24 hours straight suffers from the same difficulties behind the wheel as a person who has a blood alcohol content of 0.10, well above the legal limit in Florida and throughout the United States.
Let’s take a look at some of the impacts of fatigue on driving ability.
Impaired Cognition and Decision-Making
High levels of fatigue can leave drivers struggling to make good decisions behind the wheel. Driving safely requires performing multiple cognitive tasks simultaneously, which a well-rested brain can handle without difficulty, but with which a tired brain can struggle. When do you need to change lanes to safely make that turn? Do you have adequate room to pass that vehicle in front of you? Fatigue gets in the way of making those judgments quickly and accurately, putting drivers and others on the road at risk of a deadly accident.
Drifting from a Lane
Drowsy drivers also suffer from diminished motor control and impaired spatial awareness. As a result, they may allow their vehicles to drift out of a travel lane onto a road shoulder or, even more dangerously, into oncoming traffic. Drifting out of a lane can result in sideswipe and head-on collisions with other vehicles, collisions with fixed objects on the side of the road like trees, bridge abutments, and running into pedestrians and cyclists.
Drowsy drivers also struggle with tunnel vision—a diminished awareness of anything outside of one’s immediate field of vision. This is the opposite of the type of all-around peripheral awareness drivers need to stay safe while sharing the road with other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Drowsy drivers may not see or register a car changing lanes in front of them or a pedestrian stepping into the road from a curb, for example. Or, the driver may see these potential hazards too late to react to them. In either event, a driver with situational awareness narrowed by fatigue can cause devastating harm.
Slowed Reaction Times
Drowsiness can slow drivers’ reaction times to situations requiring a fast response: the vehicle in front of that driver slamming on its brakes, for example, or a pedestrian accidentally stumbling into the road. Slowed reaction times can make it difficult to navigate turns on time or to respond to changing road conditions, including a shift in weather conditions. Those slowed reaction times may also make it very difficult to control the vehicle in the event of a tire blowout or other serious mechanical problem.
Losing Track of Time
Tired drivers can lose track of the time they have spent on the road or the distance they have traveled. Often, that means they may have little awareness of what route they took or anything that occurred along the way. Zoning out often occurs during long drives: a real problem for tourists who have come into the West Palm Beach area late at night. Drowsy drivers may also forget the route they have taken, which may make it more difficult for them to keep up with how they reached a particular destination and, therefore, interfere with their ability to get back to that location later.
Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel
Falling asleep behind the wheel poses perhaps the overall greatest danger to drowsy drivers in the West Palm Beach area. The problem isn’t just drivers who fall fast asleep at the wheel (which is a relatively rare occurrence). Instead, many fatigued drivers experience “microsleeps” that last from a fraction of a second to up to 30 seconds. In those periods, microsleeping drivers are completely absent from the task of driving—they are as asleep and unaware of their surroundings as a person tucked in bed. At any speed, those moments of sleep can lead to catastrophic accidents and deadly collisions with others.
Why Do West Palm Beach Drivers Suffer From Fatigue?
Drivers everywhere often have a hard time determining just how tired they are, and West Palm Beach drivers are no exception. Here are some of the reasons area drivers may struggle with dangerous levels of fatigue that can impair their abilities.
Vacation Sleep Deficit
West Palm Beach sees more than 8 million visitors each year. While on vacation, many people try to make the most of every hour or struggle to fall asleep at night, especially since they may need to sleep in an unfamiliar bed or deal with unfamiliar noises coming from walls shared with other vacationers. After just one hour of lost sleep, it can take four days to fully recover from that lack of sleep. In the meantime, most people do not notice the full effects of that fatigue, including how much it impacts them.
Many people end up arriving in West Palm Beach late at night, sometimes after long drives from up North. By pushing to get here sooner, they often continue to drive long after they should have quit for the day, ignoring their growing fatigue. Travel delays, from traffic to a late start, can also make it later when vacationers finally arrive in town. Those late arrivals often suffer from high degrees of road haze and fatigue, which can increase the risk that they will cause a serious accident.
Changed Sleep Schedules or Late Nights Out
West Palm Beach offers a variety of late-night activities for people who want to get out and enjoy everything the city has to offer. While those activities bring with them a lot of fun, they may also mean fatigued drivers dragging themselves home at the end of the night. Most people have a natural circadian rhythm that causes them to start feeling drowsy as the night moves on, which means they may grow drowsy at a specific time or have a hard time driving safely after that time.
Tourists and residents in West Palm Beach alike often push their days so that they can enjoy them to the fullest extent possible. They may strive to make the most of every day, which often means long days at the beach or keeping up with long work hours. By the time they get behind the wheel to head home, those drivers may suffer from heightened levels of fatigue.
Chronic Sleep Deprivation
The residents of West Palm Beach, like other drivers, often struggle with high overall levels of chronic sleep deprivation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep each night. Unfortunately, those fatigued drivers may not realize the full extent of the limitations they face, especially as sleep deprivation becomes chronic. Many people do not prioritize healthy sleep each night—and as a result, they may struggle to keep up with the regular demands on their time and energy, including paying attention behind the wheel.
Your Rights After an Accident with a Drowsy Driver in West Palm Beach
Often, following an accident, you may not realize immediately that the other driver suffered from extreme drowsiness behind the wheel. Drowsy drivers who have not fallen asleep behind the wheel may engage in behavior that makes you suspect inebriation. Other conditions, including extremely high blood sugar in a diabetic or traumatic brain injury, can show many of the same signs after the accident. The force of a collision may even wake the other driver up abruptly, masking any symptoms of fatigue that you or the police officer that responds to the accident might notice.
If the drowsy driver engaged in dangerous behavior behind the wheel, from ignoring the rules of the road to falling asleep behind the wheel, or the other driver’s poor decision-making ability led to an accident, you may have the right to seek compensation for the accident and your injuries. Immediately after your West Palm Beach fatigued driver accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney in West Palm Beach to learn more about the specific factors that may have influenced your accident and your right to compensation after the incident.
1. You may have the right to compensation for the damage to your vehicle.
If someone else’s negligence, including a fatigued driver’s careless actions behind the wheel, led to the accident that caused you harm, you may have the right to receive compensation for the damage to your vehicle. Report the accident to the police, then, with the help of an experienced attorney, consider contacting the other driver’s insurance to learn more about the compensation you can expect and how long the process may take. Do not take any action to repair your vehicle until you have contacted the insurance company with an attorney’s help, since the company can choose not to approve or pay for repairs if you have already taken steps to fix your vehicle before they evaluate it.
2. In some cases, you may have the right to compensation for injuries you sustained in the accident.
You may also sustain injuries in an accident with a drowsy driver in West Palm Beach. If that happens, you may face physical pain, limitations to your mobility, and strain on your finances.
Florida law requires all drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover the cost of their injuries in an auto accident, regardless of fault. If you suffer minor injuries in a West Palm Beach car accident, including an accident with a drowsy driver, your personal injury protection insurance should provide the first line of financial protection against medical costs. Typically, PIP insurance will cover the immediate medical expenses associated with your injuries, minus the amount of your deductible and up to the maximum amount covered by your policy, if needed.
What happens, however, if your personal injury protection insurance runs out? Once the cost of treatment for your injuries exceeds the protection provided by your personal injury protection insurance, you may also have the right to seek additional compensation from the drowsy driver, which you can do with the help of a West Palm Beach car accident attorney. Out-of-state visitors to West Palm Beach who do not carry personal injury protection insurance may have the option of resorting directly to legal action to seek compensation.
By taking legal action, you may seek compensation for:
- The medical costs you faced that rose above the coverage provided by your personal injury protection insurance
- Past and future wages you lost as a result of your injuries
- Other out-of-pocket expenses you incurred because of the accident or your injuries
- The pain and suffering you faced because of your injuries
Contact an attorney as soon as possible after getting hurt in a West Palm Beach car accident to begin exploring whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim against a drowsy driver, and how much compensation you should expect.
Keep in mind, too, that a drowsy driver does not always necessarily bear sole liability for an accident. Other parties may share that liability, giving you additional options for securing the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Do not wait to contact an experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorney to discuss your rights and options after getting hurt in a drowsy driving accident. The sooner you contact a skilled attorney, the better your chances of securing the compensation you deserve. Contact a car accident attorney in West Palm Beach today for your free consultation.