The tragic story of a Cincinnati-area nurse’s death highlights one of the most commonly overlooked automotive dangers in the country: drowsy driving.
In March 2013, Beth Jasper, a 38-year-old nurse, was driving home from an overnight shift at The Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati when she lost control of her vehicle. Beth died in the resultant single-car crash, leaving behind a husband and two young children.
Beth’s husband, James, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hamilton County against the hospital he said played a key role in Beth’s death. He asserts extra hours and workplace stress contributed to Beth’s exhaustion, placing her directly in harm’s way.
While not commenting directly on the Jasper case, Columbus-area personal injury attorney David Bressman said the accident is heartbreaking evidence of the dangers of drowsy driving.
“There is significant evidence that driver sleepiness is a major factor in car crashes,” Bressman said.
“One study suggests that 7 percent of all crashes involved driver sleepiness. Of these crashes, 16.5 percent resulted in fatalities, and 13.1 percent resulted in hospital admissions. Clearly, this is a problem often overlooked when discussing causes for crashes.”
Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identifies sleep deprivation and drowsy driving as significant dangers, particularly for shift workers, such as Jasper.
According to NHTSA statistics, drowsy driving contributes to more than 100,000 accidents each year, which causes 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. Further, the federal safety organization asserts this is only part of the story – experts believe the issue is widely underreported.
In looking at the most common factors in drowsy driving accidents, the NHTSA identified such characteristics as:
- crashes tend to result in serious or fatal injuries;
- accidents tend to involve a single vehicle that has left the roadway;
- drivers tend to be alone in the car;
- crashes tend to happen late at night or very early in the morning; and
- drivers do not make any attempt to avoid the collision.
Several of these factors were reported in connection with Beth Jasper’s accident, including that she was the only person in her SUV at the time of the crash, and her vehicle left the roadway prior to the collision.
Drivers who frequently work long hours or travel at night may wish to familiarize themselves with the warning signs of driver fatigue, which, according to the National Sleep Foundation, include:
- frequent blinking;
- drifting in the lane;
- difficulty focusing on the road; and
- irritability and restlessness.
In the interest of preventing future tragedies, Bressman Law expressed its hope that employers and drivers alike learn to identify the warning signs of driver fatigue and develop safe alternatives to sending weary employees out onto the road.