For many years the risks of drunk driving have gotten a lot of attention, and more recently many states have taken steps to curb texting and driving. But Craig and the All Things Legal team tackled an issue that has long gone ignored, despite the fact that it’s been an issue since the first car rolled off of an assembly line: tired driving.
Craig led off by discussing a recent accident that illustrated that even professional drivers can underestimate the risks of driving while tired, with unfortunate results: “Tragically, on Tuesday a Greyhound bus driver crashed just outside of Gilroy. [The crash] killed two people and [the driver stated to the CHP] that he did feel fatigued and that he did get some coffee in Gilroy when he dropped off two passengers. [Immediately before the crash], one of the passengers said he could feel him weaving and jerking the wheel a little bit and [that he] ‘knew it wasn’t going to end well.’
“The California Highway Patrol examined the scene, [as well as] the National Safety Transportation Board. Liability is going to be clear. You know if you’re nodding off, weaving, and it’s a single-car accident and you hit a safety barrier, even under the law of negligence—if he was just a private citizen—clearly he’s going to be responsible for the medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering [incurred by the passengers].”
Or as Ed more succinctly put it: “Yeah, that guy had a duty to drive safely and failed. He breached it.”
Tired driving doesn’t just cost lives: it can be financially devastating as well.
Craig: “For the death cases, the wrongful death statute says that the family members are entitled to ‘the loss of love and comfort,’ so the relationship becomes relevant. Some people you know don’t like their parents and send them a lump of coal for Christmas, and others are super super close, right? So the law wants to look to see what you really lost in terms of loss of love and comfort. And support usually is for the wife or the children [of the victim], so if the person that passed away was the main breadwinner, then you get a forensic economist involved and come up with the present value of the loss of income over the course of their work-life expectancy. So if they’re 40, then they may have another 30 years of work-life expectancy, you multiply that by the amount that they were making, account for inflation, etc., come up with a present value, then you add that to the loss of love, comfort, and support.
“California and the rest the United States recognizes what’s called ‘common carrier responsibility,’ and common carriers… must use the highest care and vigilance of a very cautious person, so what that means is because they’re entrusted with the lives of many, many people, we as a society have recognized that the law of negligence simply doesn’t suffice because these are professional drivers.”
Ed: “Yeah they’re actually taking a fee or fare, and so because you’re paying them to carry out an act, you want them to do that with… all that human care of vigilance and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.”
Craig: “So that would apply to Uber, to Lyft, to Greyhound, to airlines, that would apply to trains, Amtrak, RT, you name it, whoever you’ve given money to that’s professionally employed to do that.
Ed: “We’re not talking about if your kid’s driving their friend to school and they’re chipping in for gas. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about somebody who’s actually licensed and a professional. They’re doing this as a commercial endeavor.”
Craig: “So, the driver pretty much admitted to the officer that he was feeling drowsy. There doesn’t appear to be any other vehicles involved, so from a foundational liability perspective, that’s pretty clear. I kind of did a little bit of research… about tired driving. Because everybody knows that texting and driving is dangerous. Everybody knows drinking and driving and using drugs is dangerous.
Drowsy driving is much more common than people realize.
“But apparently, according to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they estimate that a hundred thousand police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year, and this results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and 12 and a half billion dollars in monetary loss. The groups that are usually most responsible for fatigued driving are adults between 18 and 29. Men are more likely to drive drowsy than women, and according to the study for traffic safety, people who sleeps 6 to 7 hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than five hours… their risk goes up 4 to 5 times. So bottom line is, you know, it’s important to be rested. If you are driving fatigued, and ultimately [that] becomes one of the reasons that the crash occurred, then you’re going to be [considered] negligent and you’re going to be responsible for the damages that you caused as a result of that tired driving.”
Ed: “There was that big case just… what, a year, year and a half ago, Tracy Morgan, and that… Walmart driver apparently did not have very much sleep when he got on the road… So it is a real thing. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re tired get off the road. Take a catnap.”
Craig: When you’re talking about 100,000 police-reported crashes [caused by tired driving]… I would say the majority of accidents are not reported to the police. I would say at least an equal number. So if you have 100,000 that are police-reported, I’m wondering how many actual accidents there are total.”
Ed: “According to data from Australia, England, Finland and other European nations—all who have much better reporting with regard to questions they ask drivers with regard to, ‘Were you drowsy or not?’—indicate that 10 to 30% of all crashes are due to sleep deprivation.”
Be considerate to others. Don’t drive when you’re tired.
While the statistics are complicated and the consequences of tired driving can be enormous, the solution is simple: if you are too tired to be on the road, don’t be behind the wheel. There is nowhere that you need to be that is important enough to risk your life, or the lives of your fellow drivers.
If you are suffering from insomnia or other sleep issues that cause you to frequently commute to work while tired and groggy, seek medical assistance. Just because you have gotten away with tired driving for years doesn’t mean that you’ll get away with it forever. Keep yourself, your family, and those around you safe by making sure that you get adequate rest before heading out on the road.