The Science Behind Fatigue Accidents

Fatigue accidents are one of the leading causes of automobile accidents each year. One study determined that fatigue leads to 30% of vehicular accidents annually, most occurring between midnight and 6:00 a.m. The science behind these types of accidents has been increasingly discussed and studied in recent years. Fatigue causes drivers to become less aware of what is happening on the road; it also delays a driver’s reaction time.

The symptoms of driver fatigue vary from person to person, as each individual has their own tolerance level for fatigue. Being able to self-assess becomes more and more difficult as fatigue sets in. However, the driver’s confidence in their driving abilities typically does not wane, despite increased fatigue.

Difficulty focusing vision or attention, nodding of the head, inability to keep eyes open, and inability to retain short-term information are just some of the warning signs of fatigue that a driver and/or passenger should be on the lookout for. If any of these symptoms begin to appear, it is very likely that the driver’s ability is already impaired.

There are generally believed to be two main causes for fatigue; properly addressing these causes can greatly reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents. The first cause is a lack of quality sleep. The second is driving during the time when you normally sleep (nighttime driving). Either of these situations leads to the building of a “sleep debt”—in essence, sleep you owe yourself.

Adults between 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups, and until sleep is “caught up,” the risk for fatigued driving only increases. Other factors that influence fatigue include being awake on particularly long days (upwards of 17 hours or more), the level of physical and mental acts required by the drive (long stretches of “boring” driving), and whether or not any type of sedative drugs have been taken.

No one is immune to fatigue accidents, and they can have disastrous consequences. A lapse in concentration may occur for just a few brief seconds, but the ramifications can last a lifetime. It is important to properly assess yourself each time before you step behind the wheel. When accidents do occur, it is important to be aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. For more information, contact the offices of Pat Maloney.