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What You Should Know About Drowsy Driving

This won’t come as a big news flash, but many Americans do not get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 30% of adults in the U.S. get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Between a demanding job, raising kids and other commitments, who has time to sleep a third of the day?

Don't drive drowsyOf course, even if you are getting the magical number of 8 hours of sleep, it does not necessarily mean you are sleeping well. About 35% of Americans say they get fair or poor sleep on a regular basis, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

driving drowsy in car

30% of adults in the U.S. get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.

A good night’s rest is a cornerstone of good physical and mental health. Sleep depravation is a major factor in all kinds of accidents, including some of the most prominent in recent history, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the nuclear meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Drowsiness is also a major hazard on American roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver fatigue is the cause in about 100,000 vehicle accidents and 1,550 crash-related fatalities every year.

The car accident attorneys at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums know all too well how dangerous drowsy driving can be. To help keep you and your family safe, below are some tips on how to identify and avoid driving when sleepy.

 

Who Is Driving When Drowsy?

There is a myriad of problems that arise when our sleep suffers, such as compromised cognitive processing, reduced memory and problem solving skills, and the onset of depression symptoms. You may also be putting yourself at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

With poor or insufficient sleep being a virtual epidemic in our country, just about all of us are at risk at some time or another for drowsy driving. Some folks who are more likely to be on the verge of nodding off when behind the wheel are:

  • Drivers who have untreated sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
  • Drivers who do not regularly get enough sleep.
  • Drivers who use medications that can make them drowsy.
  • People who work long shifts or night shifts.
  • Commercial drivers who operate semis, tow trucks, construction vehicles and buses.

 

Some Signs It’s Time to Stop and Rest

It can be easy to dismiss the signs of sleepiness when operating a vehicle. You may reason that you have to get to your destination right away and that you can easily pull through the fatigue. The problem is that just about everybody who has caused an accident while driving drowsy has thought the same.

You might be too tired to continue driving if you:

  • Have difficulty focusing;
  • Are daydreaming or having disconnected thoughts;

    fatigued driving drowsy

    Driver fatigue is the cause in about 100,000 vehicle accidents each year. (NHTSA)

  • Can’t remember the last few miles you have driven;
  • Feel irritable or restless;
  • Are blinking frequently or have heavy eyes;
  • Yawn repeatedly or keep rubbing your eyes;
  • Want to lean your head on something;
  • Miss traffic signals or exits; or
  • Drift out of your lane, or drive over a shoulder or rumble strip.

 

Preventing Drowsy Driving

The best way to avoid drowsy driving is taking common sense precautions before even getting into the driver’s seat, like:

  • Get the sleep you need. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a day, while teens need about 9 hours.
  • Develop good sleeping habits, such as establishing a sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Seek treatment for sleep disorders or symptoms of them, like feeling fatigued all day and snoring.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol or taking medications that make you drowsy before driving. Check the label on your medications or talk to your pharmacist if you aren’t sure about a drug’s sleep-inducing side effects.

If you are already tired and have to be somewhere, remember that changing plans is always better than potentially getting into an accident. Try taking a nap before getting behind the wheel, or using a taxi, ride-sharing program or public transportation if the trip can’t wait.

 

Protecting You and Your Loved Ones

The attorneys at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums have been representing car accident victims, including drowsy driving accident victims, for decades. If you find yourself in an accident due to a drowsy driver, or a suspected drowsy driver, call us today at (866) 515-8880 or use our online form. We have secured millions for car and truck accident victims like you.

Car Accident v. Car Collision – What’s the Difference?

The difference is huge, and the intentional use of the term “accident” has a history of deceit.

Today’s blog is about the CrashNotAccident initiative, made possible by RoadPeace.org. Road Peace and CrashNotAccident.com is a United Kingdom-based charity that offers counseling and assistance to those who may have had their life changed due to a road accident, such as losing a family member or friend, or even those who witness a violent car crash.

What is CrashNotAccident’s Purpose? 
Simple: stop calling a car accident an “accident”; rarely is a collision due to an accident, but often due to driver negligence. Car crashes have been on the rise in many states in the U.S. due to the use of smartphones. From distracting phone calls to what is all too common and illegal, texting and driving, inattentive drivers are piloting their 4,000 lb cars down the street at speed without 100% focus on the road. Aside from distracted driving, other leading causes include speeding and drinking and driving.

car crash not car accidentThe result is no accident, but instead a violent crash or collision. Attorney and Partner with the firm, Mike Bradley says, “Car accidents are unintended events. Car crashes are events that result from human choices. Generally, because most distractions while driving are choices, car crashes are the result.” Distracted driving has been a leader and often the result of deadly collisions, according to recent auto accident statistics, and the incidents of car crashes in the state of Alabama are on the rise.

The initiative has been gaining followers and attention at a rapid pace, particularly here in the U.S. where the use of the word “accident” by local law enforcement is often replaced with “collision.” This is due to the fact that most collisions are rarely accidents and have a link to an individual breaking a law, such as texting and driving, speeding, or drinking and driving.

 Terminology of “Accident”
In the 1920s and 1930s, automobiles had little if any safety equipment, roads varied from county to county, and driver training was minimal. This resulted in automobile crashes that were frequent to include a fatality, as reported by this article in Vox. The term was also used after the turn of the industrial revolution when labor laws were lax leading to workers working long shifts in dangerous conditions.

The use of “crash” instead of “accident” is an important step for the public to understand why we have laws and why they need to be obeyed. Those who violate the laws often hurt the innocent, or worse, a fatality may result.

If interested in learning more or joining the#CrashNotAccident initiative, this link will take you to the organization’s website.

 

The UNICEF Tap Project

Ever feel tethered to your phone? Do you worry that your kids are spending too much time with their eyes glued to that tiny monitor in their hands? You aren’t alone. Studies show people are concerned with their smartphone usage. A recent CNN poll revealed that half of U.S. teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices. Young boy distracted playing on phone

Using a smartphone while driving is a particularly worrisome habit and for good reason. Distracted driving is responsible for an estimated 421,000 injuries and over 3,300 deaths per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Of course, you should never use your phone when behind the wheel, but what about using your phone when it is perfectly safe to do so? If you are interested in reducing your smartphone usage, but have not made the effort yet to cut down, we’ve got a great incentive for you to finally give it a shot: the UNICEF Tap Project.

The United Nations Children’s Fund has launched a campaign that challenges people to put down their phones in order to help provide clean water to children in need around the world. The project encourages participants to stop texting, calling, emailing, tweeting and posting to social media in exchange for supporting a global effort to improve access to safe water for millions of children.

 

The Problems

The compelling thing about this campaign is that it is doubly beneficial. It’s effectively helping to combat two bigtime problems at once: smartphone usage in the U.S. and access to clean water in the developing world.

Excessive smartphone usage is linked to psycho-social issues, such as the incredible stat referenced above that over half of adolescents self-report addiction to their cell phones. Even if you don’t fall into that extreme category, many of us check our smartphones compulsively. Like many compulsions, the more we do it, the stronger and more frequently the urge hits us to continue to do it.

Excessive cell phone usage also has negative physical effects. Vision loss, wrist problems, numb fingers, and “text neck” (when your head is bent down for too long) are some of the ways your body can suffer by having a phone in hand on and off throughout the day.

Outside of the U.S. and other developed nations, citizens battle a more serious everyday concern: access to clean water. About 1 in 10 people worldwide – or about 663 million – are estimated to not have regular access to safe water. This comes at an enormous cost: every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

 

Doing Your Part

If you go to the UNICEF Tap Project website, you’ll be greeted by a blue screen with a floating cell phone that reads:

“Millions of children lack clean water. How long can you go without something far less vital?”Access to clean drinking water

You’ll then have an option to go to another screen that times how long you do not pick up your phone. While your phone rests comfortably, you can read stats on the worldwide clean water crisis. You’ll also learn some cell phone usage facts, like how many Facebook posts have been made since you put down your phone.

There is also data on where people are taking on the challenging of giving up their cell phones, and the longest time logged so far for going without a phone.

Overall, it’s a fun and eye-opening experience that connects “first world problems” with the life-threatening water situation hundreds of millions of people face in underdeveloped nations.

To further support the project, the website has donation options and information on ways you can volunteer to help raise awareness about water-related issues across our planet.

 

Supporting Safety in Our Communities

The attorneys at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums enthusiastically support projects like the UNICEF Tap Project that seek to raise awareness about smartphone usage – and of course the added bonus of doing something about health issues that people beyond our borders confront.

As car and trucking accident lawyers, we are all too familiar with the devastation that habitual smartphone usage can wreak when it happens in the driver’s seat. Far too many people are hurt or killed every year by distracted drivers and we want to do our part in sending out the message to put down the phone and practice safe driving habits.

If you do find yourself in an accident with a distracted driver, or a driver who was otherwise careless, please reach out to us today for a free case review to learn you next legal steps.

Summer Road Trips

road tripsRoad trips are as much a part of American culture as baseball and Thanksgiving turkey. That desire to take to the millions of miles of roadways that crisscross our great country is rooted deep in our collective psyche.

You’ve probably taken at least a few road trips with friends and family. No doubt you’ve watched movies, read books and listened to songs all about the quintessential American experience of hitting the road too.

What better time to take a road trip than when the weather is sweet and the landscape is lush and green? You can take a journey in your car anytime of year, but summer is the definitive season for road trips in our country.

While there are thousands of places to explore outside of Alabama, our state has superb destinations that won’t require filling up tank after tank of gas to reach. There are a bevy of relaxing bed and breakfasts and inns sprinkled around the state.

The Limestone House Bed and Breakfast, Garden Path Inn, Mistletoe Bough Bed & Breakfast, and Forte Conde Inn are just some of the places you can regroup over a weekend. If you want to beat the heat, there’s always the Gulf or one of our state’s serene lakes that make for cool escapes.

Regardless of your destination, the whole point of a road trip is to explore and relax. Okay, maybe the kids will ask a thousand times, “When are we getting there?” Small annoyances are an expected part of the journey. To make your planning as smooth as possible, so you can enjoy your actual trip, we’ve got some tips for you below.

Safety First

  • It’s always a good idea to have a First Aid kit and flashlight in the car and within reach, and have the following in the truck: emergency flares, jumper cables and an extra tire.
  • Be sure you know how to do basic vehicle maintenance tasks. Must know skills would include being able to check the oil and radiator levels, change a flat tire, and jump starting an engine.
  • When you’re on the trip, don’t advertise to the world that you’re traveling. Be sure to hide road maps and travel brochures in your car so passerbys don’t spot it. Same goes for leaving suitcases, bags and valuables out. Stow them away or cover them up with a blanket. It’s too tempting for criminals to break into your vehicle and grab them.
  • If you need to take a break while night driving, choose large, well-lit areas. Yes, truck stops may seem sketchy, but most are actually patrolled by 24-hour security.

Packing

Going on a trip can be a joy-filled adventure, but probably not the packing part so much. What do I wear? What will the weather be like? Do I need to bring those dress shoes? These are some of the questions that can make packing a worrisome endeavor.

While we can’t help you with your clothing choices, below are some pointers on what any road trip packing list should include:

  • Water – yup, you can pick this up at just about any pit stop along the way, but it’s a good idea to have some extra bottles in the back in the case of an emergency. If you’re stranded along the side of a rural highway in blazing Alabama summer heat for too long, you’ll be glad you had something to sip on.
  • Munchies – much like water, you can pick up your favorite chips, granola bars or trail mix at a local convenience store during your journey. Still, it’s good to have some extra on hand in case you drive awhile through a rural area, or get stuck on the side of the road.
  • Paper Products – this would include tissues, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper. Tissues will come in handy if you or one of the kiddos has the sniffles. Extra napkins and paper towels are a must-have to wipe off greasy hands after downing a foot-long, or spilling your favorite beverage in the car. And toilet paper? You know. Those gas station bathrooms and rest stops aren’t always the most welcoming.
  • Medications and pain relievers – be sure to have enough prescribed medications to get you through your trip. If you are prone to allergies or feel a cold coming on, bring along some remedies for that too. Finally, having some kind of pain medication like ibuprofen is important in the event of muscle aches, headaches or some other kind of ache rears its ugly head.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen – you don’t want to be squinting through the glare emanating from other cars all day, do you? Sunglasses are as needed in the car as they are when you are outside sunning yourself on the beach. Most people should also be wearing sunscreen when they are out under the Alabama sun to prevent burns. Some of us even need sunscreen when in the car to keep our arms and necks from turning pink.

So many people hitting the roads in the summer can mean an increase in car accidents. If you or a loved one are in a car accident, the attorneys at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums are here for you. We focus on car accident cases and have won our clients millions in favorable settlements and verdicts. Reach out to our practice today to learn more.