Driver Fatigue Blamed in Serious North Carolina Crashes

A young female pickup truck driver slammed into a power line pole on a North Carolina highway recently, causing major power outages in the Burgaw area. shattered.jpg

Our North Carolina accident attorneys understand the motorist had fallen asleep at the wheel.

In another recent case out of Marion County, a woman died earlier this month in a wreck after her husband reportedly fell asleep while driving. Investigators say it was shortly after 5 a.m. when the two left their home. He was driving on the 501 bypass, ran off the road and then over-corrected, causing the vehicle to flip. The wife was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the hospital. Her husband, meanwhile, did not suffer any serious injuries.

Tragedies like this are absolutely avoidable, but they happen all too frequently.

A recent poll of 150,000 drivers aged 18 and older revealed that more than 4 percent of motorists admitted to falling asleep while driving at some point in the last month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 fatal crashes are caused by fatigued drivers every single year. The AAA Foundation for Safety, however, found that one-fifth of all drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in at least one instance over the past year.

These figures tend to be conservative, though, because it’s not as easy to scientifically gauge a level of fatigue the same way we would the amount of alcohol or drugs in a person’s system.

It’s worth noting however that driving while you are tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk. After 18 hours of being awake, your impairment level is similar to someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent, according to the Centers for Disease control. After a full 24 hours without sleep, your impairment level is the same as someone who has a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent – well above the 0.08 percent maximum.

If you add alcohol or prescription medications to that, the risks are even higher.

This is a major problem. Obviously, those with sleep disorders tend to be more at risk, as are commercial truck drivers, whose occupation requires them to spend extended hours on straight highways with erratic sleep schedules.

But as these local cases show, it can truly happen to anyone. What’s especially troubling is that many fatigued drivers may actually be so tired that they don’t even realize their level of impairment. The National Sleep Foundation reports that while denial of fatigue is problematic, motorists may not even be aware of shorter lapses in sleep (called microsleeps) that happen while driving.

The NSF recommends taking the following warning signs seriously:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open;
  • Daydreaming or memory lapses;
  • Missing your exit;
  • Hitting a rumble strip;
  • Drifting out of your lane;
  • Trouble remembering the last several miles you drove;
  • Blinking or yawning frequently.

If you start to experience any combination of these, pull over immediately. You could be saving a life.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Pickup truck crashes into power lines causing power outages, Feb. 10, 2013, By Caraline Waldrep, WECT, Channel-6

More Blog Entries:
South Carolina Crash Victims Drown in Submerged Vehicle in LA, Feb. 11, 2013, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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