The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has laws prohibiting truck drivers from operating their vehicles for more than 11 hours over the course of a day. All 11 hours of driving have to be completed within 14 hours of the time a driver went on duty.

Despite these rules, a Wal-Mart truck driver was reportedly awake for more than 24 hours and was still behind the wheel. That driver now faces criminal charges for causing the deadly accident that left comedian Tracy Morgan seriously injured. The trucker is accused of breaking the law and taking a big risk with the lives of other motorists by driving while fatigued.

Drowsy driving can cause the same types of impairment as driving drunk. A fatigued motorist has delayed reaction time and his judgment will suffer. Driving after being awake for 24 hours is the equivalent of having a blood-alcohol content of .10, and driving after being awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of having a BAC of .05. While .10 is above the legal limit, even a .05 BAC can significantly increase the chances that an accident will happen.

Most people know that drowsy driving is dangerous, but many people do it anyway. A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that 96.3 percent of motorists disapproved of those who drove when too tired to keep their eyes open. Yet despite the disapproval, 26.3 percent of motorists had driven while they were having a hard time staying awake over the course of the 30 days before the survey.

Drowsy driving is the cause of 15 to 33 percent of fatal accidents in the United States. Yet, people are much more likely to drive when fatigued than they are to drive when they are either drunk or texting on their phones. A Public Attitude Survey found 38 percent of subjects had never driven when they were tired, which means well over half of all respondents had engaged in fatigued driving. By contrast, 91 percent said they didn’t text and 95 percent said they didn’t drive drunk.

The general public seems to have internalized the dangers of drunk and distracted driving more than drowsy driving. This may be because there is more social stigma about these behaviors than about driving drowsy. Research has shown that social stigma may be one of the most effective ways to reduce undesirable behavior, so stigmatizing fatigued driving could make a big difference.

A motorist who is too fatigued to be safe is a risk to himself and others. If you've been the victim of a drowsy driving accident, you may be able to pursue a claim for damages. Call Metzger Wickersham today to speak with a member of our legal team about an injury claim.