Drowsy Driving: A Common Practice with Terrible Consequences

Written By: John McLeish and William Harding, Student-at-Law


Distracted driving and driving while intoxicated have received significant public attention in recent years. There are now many laws in place aimed at combatting these causes of automobile collisions. One cause of collisions that has received much less attention is driver fatigue.

Driver fatigue is a common problem amongst Canadian motorists. Every year, many injuries and fatalities occur as a result of a drowsy driver behind the wheel of a vehicle. Statistics Canada estimates that about 20% of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue. One survey found that about 60% of Canadians occasionally drive while drowsy and 15% have fallen asleep while driving in the past year.[1]

Much like driving while intoxicated, reaction time is significantly reduced while driving fatigued. It is estimated that remaining awake for 18 consecutive hours is roughly equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of .05. Remaining awake for 24 hours is similar to a blood alcohol concentration of .10.

Commercial Trucking and Driver Fatigue

While driver fatigue affects all motorists, studies have indicated that it is an especially serious problem for commercial truck drivers. Drivers face pressure from their employers to make their deliveries on time. Often, this requires them to drive for many consecutive hours, sometimes through the night.  The danger is compounded by the fact that commercial trucks require more time to come to a stop and usually cause much more damage in the event of a collision.

Common types of collisions include rear end collisions, head on, and single vehicle leaving the roadway. In recent years, there have been a numerous of catastrophic commercial truck collisions caused by driver inattention. The facts of these collisions are often very similar:

1) Traffic slows on a highway, often due to construction or another collision

2) A truck operator fails see the slow down and decrease his speed

3) The truck rear ends stopped traffic while travelling at highway speed

This was exactly what happened this past May in a seven vehicle collision on Highway 401 near Kingston. A transport truck failed slow down ahead of a construction zone and collided with several stopped vehicles. Four people lost their lives, and two others were injured. The photo below was taken at the collision scene.

McLeish Orlando frequently acts for individuals who have been injured by negligent driving, or family members, who have lost a love one. In many of our cases, a few moments of inattention brought on by driver fatigue is the cause of the collision.

[1] Vanlaar et al, “Fatigued and drowsy driving: A survey of attitudes, opinions and behaviors” (2008) 39:3 Journal of Safety Research Pages 303-309.

If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury as the result of a collision, contact one of the critical injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando for a free consultation.


Alexis Perlman


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