Fatigue while driving is a form of impaired driving
Individuals who drive while experiencing extreme fatigue are as impaired as drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of a substance which damages their ability to focus and perform. Driving while in a state of fatigue can mean that you have slowed responses, poor judgment, a propensity to fall asleep, the inability to recognize risks for what they are, and unfortunately, the inability to recognize any of these potentially deadly conditions in time to avert a crisis from them.
Liability follows impaired driving
An individual who is driving while fatigued is liable for any damage or injury caused while driving in that impaired state. Courts are increasingly finding individuals who have been driving while fatigued to be as impaired as those driving under the influence of an actual substance. An insurance company might refuse to pay a claim or honor coverage once a driver’s fatigue level has been discovered. They may also fail to provide legal help to an insured who has been determined to have been at fault because of driving while fatigued or otherwise distracted.
Safe driving regulations exist to protect others
There is an unspoken requirement that individuals who assume the responsibility of driving will, in fact, have the capacity to drive safely. There is no real way to gauge this; drivers must be on an unofficial honor system to make them comply. Because the dangers of driving while fatigued are seldom discussed beyond “falling asleep at the wheel,” this topic does not come up nearly enough to cause a behavior change among sleepy drivers.
Safe driving rules are in place for the protection of other compliant drivers who drive on public roadways with the expectation that safe conditions will exist and be appropriately enforced.
Governmental entities are concerned with the regulation and promotion of safety in driving and have the responsibility to promulgate safe driving standards and regulations for each geographic area. These pertain to operation of commercial vehicles in a safe manner as well as requiring observation of general driver safety procedures by all drivers on the public roadways. Most forms of commercial over-the-road transport have actual sleep requirements and have related penalties for violating the rules, most of which are economic in nature or affect a driver’s licence status.
Sadly, a dangerous wreck or serious injury is generally required to force measures to be taken regarding driving while fatigued.
As is the case with many serious issues for which there is no clear solution, often the occurrence of a tragic event is required to serve as a catalyst for action where dealing with fatigued drivers are concerned. Short of a tragedy, drivers could benefit from more education about the risks of driving while fatigued, and some additional tips on how to avoid the situation entirely.