How Dangerous is Fatigue on Mississippi Roads?

You might think that traffic accidents have decreased in Mississippi because of the restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Generally, that’s probably true right across the U.S., but as states like Mississippi open up, it’s possible that the accident rate will go up again and it might even go higher due to more long-distance driving and fatigue at the wheel. That’s because there are genuine fears about traveling using public transport because there is more risk of contracting Covid-19 from fellow passengers in the more confined spaces in these large vehicles. That means buses around Jackson and other Mississippi cities are likely to have less use. Long distance travel by bus (Greyhound), train and air are also likely to be down. That translates into more people attempting to use their own vehicles rather than risk using public transport.

One of the least reported causes of traffic accidents on U.S. highways is fatigue. Drowsy driving is close to alcohol and drugs as a cause of accidents. It’s easy to see drowsy driving increasing across the U.S. as people opt for driving in their own vehicles rather than risk potentially risky air, bus or train travel.

Fatigue is the main cause of up to 10% of traffic accidents

Drowsy driving is a danger whenever drivers attempt to drive too far in one hit without proper amounts of rest. It has always been a problem in the U.S. where distances can be huge. It has been estimated that around10% of all traffic accidents are caused by drowsy or fatigued drivers. That translates into around 7,500 fatalities a year in a normal year, caused by fatigue.

In a disturbing study undertaken by the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 30% of people questioned said that they had driven while feeling “extremely tired.”

It’s harder to legislate against drowsy driving, certainly compared to drunk driving. How can you measure scientifically how tired someone is? In the end, it comes down to common sense rules and advice. “Don’t drive if you are tired.” However, that is clearly not good enough as there are many reasons why drivers often drive when they are not sufficiently awake enough to concentrate on what they are doing.

Drowsy drivers may not get the same sort of public approbation against them that drunk or drugged drivers do, but they are equally dangerous. In fact, it has been reported that fatigue by drivers is similar to the effects of drinking alcohol. Fatigue means that a driver has a reduced ability to make sensible driving decisions, reaction time is delayed and attention span is reduced.

If a driver has been awake without sleep for 17 hours, the danger of them having an accident is about the same as someone who has a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.05g/100 ml. That is under the maximum permitted BAC in Mississippi, but not by much. At this level of sleep deprivation, a driver is about twice as likely to have an accident as one who has not been drinking.

When the driver has not slept for up to24 hours in a row, it is the equivalent of having a BAC of 0.1g/100mL, which is well over the legal limit in Mississippi and, in fact, all other states in the country.

Of course, there is no easy way of testing a person’s sleep deprivation. If someone has been driving erratically and is pulled over by the police, there is no equivalent of a breathalyzer to measure sleep deprivation, even if it is just as dangerous.

A person who was been awake for 24 hours will then have similar driving effectiveness of a person who has a BAC reading of 0.1g/100ml. This makes them over seven times more probable to be in a car accident.

The scenarios about fatigue are quite frightening. When a driver is fatigued, they can experience micro-sleeps. This is when the driver actually nods off behind the wheel momentarily. This happens more frequently than one imagines. To be honest, there are probably very few drivers who routinely drive long distances who haven’t experienced a brief period of napping or micro-sleeps on a long trip.

The math behind micro-sleeps

If you take someone who is driving at an average speed of 60mph, and fall asleep for only 4 seconds, you could travel for 120 yards without being in control of the vehicle. On a highway where there is fast-moving traffic, that is a recipe for disaster.

If you have been involved in a car or truck accident anywhere in the state and believe it was caused by a fatigued driver, you have grounds for claiming compensation. In Jackson, you should contact a dedicated and experienced car accident attorney at the Diaz Law Firm at 601-607-3456.