Is there a way to tell if fatigue contributed to a crash?

Readers across Tennessee should understand just how dangerous it is to drive while overly tired. In an article we wrote on our website, we discussed how similar drowsy driving is to drunk driving, considering the fact that both types of drivers experience the same impairments that make them a hazard on the road.

However, unlike drunk driving, there are no ways to calculate on the spot how impaired someone could be by sleepiness. There is not breath test device or blood test that can tell us how tired someone may have been when he or she drifted into another lane and caused a devastating accident. But this is not to say that it is impossible to tell if fatigue or drowsiness contributed to an accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are several characteristics of an accident that could suggest someone was tired or fell asleep while driving. It can be crucial to answer these questions in order to support an argument that a driver was drowsy:

  • Where did the accident happen? Many fatigue-related crashes happen on highways where people may set cruise control and zone out without the interruption of intersections, traffic lights and fewer landmarks to focus on.
  • When did the accident happen? Because of our circadian rhythms, many drowsy driving accidents happen late at night when people naturally get tired and sleep.
  • Who was in the car? Drivers who are alone are more likely to succumb to sleepiness. Having another person in the car can help a driver stay awake and a passenger can also rouse a sleeping driver before a crash occurs.
  • What actions were taken before the crash? Studies show that people who are very fatigued or have fallen asleep behind the wheel will not make any attempt to prevent an accident. This means they won’t apply their brakes, swerve out of the way of an obstacle or slow down. The absence of these maneuvers could be a strong sign that a driver was asleep at the time.

Of course, just because an accident happened at night or when a driver was alone does not mean that drowsiness contributed to a crash. However, if several of the above-mentioned factors come into play, there may be a strong indication that a driver was fatigued or nodded off behind the wheel.