Ambulance Driver Falls Asleep on the Job

Collision CareJan Care Accident Injures Three People in Doddridge County:  West Virginia State Police are investigating an ambulance crash that happened in Doddridge County on the night of May 20, 2013.  A Jan-Care ambulance crashed on Route 50 near Arnold’s Creek just after 11 p.m.   The ambulance driver told police that he had fallen asleep while driving.

The driver said he was traveling toward Parkersburg when the vehicle ran off the roadway and ended up in the guard rail and a ravine, according to West Virginia State Police.  One person was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital.  There was one patient in the ambulance, according to 911 officials. The patient and another person in the ambulance were taken to United Hospital Center for treatment.

State police have not released the names of the people involved. Their injuries didn’t appear to be life threatening.

Drowsy Driving is one of the Leading Causes of Accidents on WV Highways

Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

Ambulance drivers are on call 24-7 — it is no wonder that the drivers are often driving while sleep deprived.  It is especically sad when an ambulance driver whose only intent is to save lives falls asleep at the wheel and causes injury.   This is the second major Jan Care accident in this area this year.  I am confident the Jan Care company will be revising policies or will at least have a new urgency in working to prevent future accidents that could injure their staff and the patients who have been trusted to their care.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people — especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap — does not apply to ambulance drivers!
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep — also does not apply to ambulance drivers.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV. You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide:  304-594-1800.

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