Sleep Apnea and Chronic Fatigue Pose Major Risks to Everyone on the Road

Drowsy driving can cause serious and often fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2017, drowsy driving led to 91,000 accidents, 50,000 injuries, and 800 deaths.

While these numbers are staggering, they likely underestimate the true extent of the problem, as drowsy driving can be difficult to prove as the cause of an accident. If you’ve been in an accident with a drowsy driver, you may need an experienced personal injury attorney to prove your claim and recover damages.

What is Sleep Apnea (And What Does It Have to Do with Drowsy Driving)?

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects breathing during sleep. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway. It can cause loud snoring and interruption of breathing during sleep.

A 2019 study found as many as 1 billion adults suffer from sleep apnea worldwide. The Sleep Apnea Association reports that over 22 million Americans have the condition, with as many as 80 million going undiagnosed.

Because sleep apnea can interrupt sleep, it often results in daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea makes it difficult to stay alert and react quickly to oncoming traffic or road hazards. This can make sleep apnea dangerous for drivers with the condition and everyone else on the road.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Can It Affect Driving Ability?

Those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) experience extreme fatigue not explained by an underlying medical condition. People with CFS may experience worsening fatigue when engaging in physical or mental activity, and rest doesn’t help to alleviate the symptoms. CFS can cause many symptoms, including insomnia, impaired memory, and poor concentration.

CFS sufferers can experience post-exertional malaise (PEM), in which they experience cognitive issues, dizziness, or severe fatigue for some time. Some sufferers cannot predict how long a PEM episode can last, with some needing recovery between daily tasks. PEM can make driving a car dangerous for the driver and those they are sharing the road with.

Why Drowsy Driving is Dangerous for Everyone on the Road

Drowsy driving from sleep apnea and chronic fatigue syndrome is dangerous for everyone on the road. Even when a person falls asleep for only a few seconds, it’s easy for the driver to go off the road or get into an accident with another vehicle. In addition to the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, drowsiness can also lead to impaired judgment and reaction time.

Sleep-deprived drivers are more likely to make mistakes, such as changing lanes without signaling. They can struggle to maintain a safe distance between cars, and may not react in time to roadway hazards. These errors can easily lead to accidents, especially at high speeds. 

Can a Drowsy Driver Be Held Liable for an Accident?

In Missouri, drivers who cause accidents while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be held liable for damages. However, whether drowsy drivers can be held liable for accidents is less clear. Although drowsy driving can lead to dangerous consequences, it’s challenging to prove that a driver was too tired to be operating a vehicle safely.

If a driver falls asleep at the wheel and causes an accident, they may be liable for negligence. Assigning liability will depend on whether the at-fault driver’s condition was outside their control or whether they knew about their condition, thus being aware of the risk.

Your lawyer can gather evidence to prove negligence by the drowsy driver and that their actions led to your injuries and damages. These pieces of evidence may include:

  • Police report detailing what happened in the accident
  • Photos and videos from the accident scene showing the damage to all vehicles involved
  • Surveillance footage (such as from dash cams, traffic cams, or nearby businesses’ security cameras) to show the drowsy driver was driving recklessly or erratically, such as driving through red traffic lights or stop signs
  • Eyewitness testimony to pinpoint if the driver swerved or drove too closely at the time of the accident

Call a Car Accident Lawyer After a Drowsy Driving Accident

If a drowsy driver injured you or a loved one, you can enlist the St. Louis car accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley to hold the driver accountable. We can review the evidence and connect your injuries to the accident.

Contact our law office today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn how we can protect your legal rights if you were injured by a drowsy driver.