Collision in Fort Worth Shows Danger of Tired Drivers

Fort Worth car collisions have surged due to overly tired drivers

We all know that we have too many collisions in Fort Worth. While everyone will agree that intoxicated drivers must be stopped, not many people understand that tired drivers are just as dangerous.

Driving while exhausted (DWE) is far more common than driving while intoxicated (DWI), but you rarely hear about it. We need to publicize this forgotten cause of crashes so they can be stopped.

Just two days ago in Fort Worth, an overly tired driver caused a horrible wreck here two days ago. A man fell asleep at 3:00 p.m. while he was driving on Interstate 35 in far north Fort Worth. This caused him to crash his vehicle into the guard rail and tragically take the life of his passenger, 25-year-old Sarah Million.

You might wonder how someone can fall asleep in the middle of the day and still be driving a car or truck, right? But a whopping 32% of people have admitted that they had driven at least one time in the last month when they could barely keep their eyes open.

62% of drivers admit to regularly driving when they are too tired to do so safely. Many people are chronically sleep-deprived. Some thrive on how far they can push themselves and how long they can stay up.

Over 100,000 car collisions are caused by overly tired drivers each year in our country. They took the lives of over 5,000 people — and this is just in reported cases where the police can determine the cause of death, which is obviously impossible a one car crash. And that doesn’t begin to account for the hundreds of thousands of injuries, not to mention near-misses.

If the Fort Worth driver was that tired, he should have pulled over, bought a Coke or cup of coffee, let the passenger drive, or better yet, stayed home and taken a nap. Driving is not an automatic right that a person can exercise if he or she is too tired or impaired. DWE isn’t illegal but it has the same effect as DWI. A crash is a crash.

Tired drivers are just as dangerous as intoxicated drivers 

We have all seen another driver hitting the rumble strip, running a red light, or drifting over into our lanes. The usual causes are texting while driving, drinking while driving, and dozing off while driving — all serious problems on our Dallas-Fort Worth highways and roads.

Compare the Fort Worth collision to what just happened early this morning when a woman caused a Dallas car wreck on LBJ Freeway. She was driving at a high rate of speed about 2:30 a.m. when she rear ended the car in front of her at a light. She was arrested for DWI. But at that late hour, she was also presumably tired. While she was not injured, the woman she crashed into was rushed to the hospital in serious condition.

In the Fort Worth crash, the police did not perform a Breathalyzer test on the driver and took his word for it when he said he had fallen asleep. There is no test for that, but there should be. A driver’s alertness, skills, vision, judgment, and depth perception are critical at all times. By comparison, in the Dallas crash, the negligent driver was tested and arrested.

Driving while tired is a common problem on our highways

The following statistics are, well, eye-opening:
— Drivers who have not slept for 20 hours have comparable blood alcohol concentrations to drunk drivers.
— Drivers who miss 1-2 hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep double their chances of being in a car crash.
— Drivers who miss 2-3 hours of sleep more than quadruple their chances of being in a car wreck.
— Close to one-half of drivers sleep less than six hours one or more days in an average week.

How to prevent drowsy driving

  1. Only drive when you are fully awake (which should be obvious but apparently isn’t);
  2. Avoid heavy foods and medications that can make you tired;
  3. Travel with someone who is wide awake; and
  4. On long trips, play loud music, roll down the windows every now and then, get out of your car ever hour or so and get caffeinated beverages.

Signs to watch out for

If the following list sounds just like one you’d make for someone who is DWI, that’s because the two are so similar.

  • Inability to keep your eyes open (obviously) or nodding your head
  • Inability focusing
  • Nodding your head
  • Drifting into another lanes
  • Hitting the rumble strip or shoulder
  • Missing exits or turns
  • Failing to see or stop at traffic lights or signs
  • Zoning out
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Reacting slowly
  • Inability to remember the last few minutes of driving

How to protect your teenager from driving when he or she is too tired

Teens may seem to be healthy and have a lot of energy, but many are sleep-deprived. Between going to school and doing homework, extracurricular activities and social lives (and social media), they can burn a candle at both ends. Teenagers need a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep at night, and 10 hours are recommended. How many get 7?

If you don’t think this is a problem, drivers who are less than 25-year-old cause a way disproportionate percentage of all collisions (55%).

Typical example of tired driver causing a fatal crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has found that a lot of fatality crashes were caused by sleep deprivation or sleep apnea, including one in California a year ago that took the lives of the driver and 12 passengers on a bus.

How to hold a driver negligent in a drowsy driving case

What should you do if you are hit by another driver who you suspect was too tired to be driving in the first place? In addition to the useful tips that I’ve given here, don’t forget to take a photo of him or her on your cell phone. Note whether their eyes were bloodshot or they were yawning. See if there are empty beer cans or coffee cups lying around. Write down what they said and how they said it. Ask the investigating police officer to include these facts in his crash report so you and your lawyer can use them later when you are arguing with the other driver’s insurance company or explaining how the crash happened to a jury.

If a lawsuit is filed, your injury attorney can subpoena documents and take the other driver’s deposition. He can ask him or her important questions including his previous sleep, medications, work schedule, stress levels, and of course intoxicating beverages and drugs ingested.

DWE causes over one in five of the fatal collisions in the U.S. More than half of these drivers had no symptoms before falling asleep at the wheel. We need to get the word out so we can stop these needless collisions and save innocent lives.

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