Accident reports are full of facts that can lead Bellingham police, accident investigators, insurers and victims to evidence of drowsy driving. For example, if there are no tire marks on a road but a car plowed head on into a tree or another car, that can be an obvious sign that a driver was asleep or distracted. Unless it's a rare but terrible case of a deliberate crash, no skid marks would mean that the driver did not brake to avoid the crash.
Cell phones are ubiquitous and usually in the car at the time of a crash, if not a major contributor to the cause of the crash. The driver's cell phone record would show information about whether or not the driver had been driving a long time. Long drives are a risk factor to drowsy driving. If a driver's text record shows he or she was awake throughout the night using the phone, then sleep would have been disrupted, and thus increase the chances of a fatigued driver the next day.
Even credit or debit card records could show if a driver bought something that would have contributed to fatigue. For example, a purchase of a fast food meal could make someone want to sleep afterwards, especially if it's late and the driver is on a long, uninterrupted road like a highway. Also, if a driver was using a medication such as a prescription painkiller or motion sickness pills, the likelihood of fatigue increases.
The bottom line is that our forensics have gotten increasingly sophisticated, and the more we are plugged into technology, the more we leave a trail of clues. When a drowsy driver gets behind the wheel instead of doing what the body needs - rest - other innocent drivers are at risk for a serious or devastating car wreck. Drowsy driving is a negligent act, and can mean jail time if someone is discovered to have been driving while knowingly sleep deprived.
Here are some more facts about drowsy driving:
Studies show a dramatic reduction in reaction time while sleep deprivated. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.
Drowsy driving isn't limited to falling asleep while driving, but includes operating a motor vehicle while sleepy or fatigued. This is because data show sleep deprivation creates high risk for serious accidents.
Nearly 5,000 collisions in Washington between 2012-2015 involved potential or documented drowsy driving.
Washington currently has no "drowsy driving" law on the books but legislatures are considering a law that would specifically make it a crime.
However, even without a law against it, fatigued drivers could be found guilty of reckless driving, vehicular assault, or vehicular homicide. Current law prohibits operating a vehicle "with disregard for the safety of others" which causes bodily harm or death to someone else.
Drowsy driving causes car accidents, so please talk to your loved ones and friends about it, and be the designated driver if someone you know is attempting to drive while sleep deprived. Fatigued driving is simple to avoid, and here are some tips to think about and be a responsible driver. Fatigued driving is as serious as drunk or distracted driving, and should be treated with the same importance.