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Despite Increased Awareness, Drowsy Driving Remains a Difficult Issue

L’Tonya Johnson was a star athlete and mother of two equally athletic children. The lifelong track and field runner has a passion for leading an active and healthy lifestyle. As a track coach, Johnson pushed other children to live more active lives and took pride in her job. On the morning of December 19, 2010, her life was dramatically altered at the hands of a drowsy driver. Jeremy Wilson, a driver for Southeastern Building Services, Inc. attempted to make a left turn in front of Johnson’s Honda and crushed her car. Court documents reveal the driver “had been out all night with a friend and had not slept.”

After a two day trial in the Alachua County Circuit Court, a Florida jury awarded L’Tonya Johnson $664,328 for “compensatory damages for her past and future medical expenses, and her past and future pain and suffering.” Johnson suffered neck and back injuries that have yet to heal, four years later. “Her injuries have severely damaged her ability to engage in the activities she most enjoys in life,” her attorney Lance Avera said. “Her life passion is coaching children in track and field.”

Drowsy Driving is a real threat

Startling data from the National Sleep Foundation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that drowsy driving poses a significant threat to all drivers on the road. The NHTSA estimates that about 100,000 crashes can be attributed to driver fatigue annually. These accidents account for an astounding “estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.” These numbers, of course, are most likely much higher than reported because drowsy driving is so difficult to prove without a uniform coding system in accidents like there is for drunk driving.

According to the NHTSA:
 There are no tests available to determine sleepiness as there are for intoxication, i.e. a “Breathalyzer”.
 State reporting practices are inconsistent. Most police officers do not have access to training in identifying drowsiness as a crash factor. Each state has its own way, but the codes are inconsistent and two states (Missouri and Wisconsin) do not have specific codes for fatigue and/or fell asleep.
 Self-reporting is not reliable.
 Driver fatigue may play a role in accidents attributed to other causes such as alcohol. Approximately one million crashes annually are thought to be produced by a distracted driver, including one that may have fallen asleep.
(Source: NHTSA via DrowsyDriving.org)

An Australian study found that drivers who remained awake for 18 hours straight recorded an impairment level equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. Drivers who stayed awake for 24 hours produced an impairment level equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of .10 after 24 hours. The legal limit in Massachusetts and many other states is .08. The legal limit for minors, of course, is .00. There have been numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts awarded to families of crash victims as a result of lawsuits filed against individuals like Jeremy Wilson as well as businesses like Southeastern Building Services, Inc, whose employees were involved in drowsy driving crashes.

Distracted driving, including drowsy driving, remains a serious threat to public safety, killing and injuring tens of thousands of people a year. Car accidents can happen at any time, and if you or a loved one has been injured as result of a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, we can help. At the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, our experienced team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys have successfully handled thousands of car accident injury cases, including accidents involving driver fatigue. While no amount of money will ever compensate for your injuries, victims of personal injury and their families may be entitled to financial relief through a Personal Injury or a Wrongful Death Lawsuit.We are happy to answer any questions you may have, and get you the compensation you deserve.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

Read the full article from National Trial Lawyers

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