Drowsiness, Medical Emergencies Linked to Lane Departure Crashes

Double YellowDrowsiness, medical emergencies at the wheel, or blackouts as a result of alcohol or drug use are linked to many lane departure accidents across the United States every year. That information comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose research focused on lane-drift accidents, in which drivers lost control of the vehicle and veered into the other lane. The researchers found that incapacitation was a factor in approximately 32% of all accidents linked to lane departure, and 42% of accidents that ended in fatal or serious injuries.

They also found that the driver fell asleep at the wheel in 17% of the accidents that were analyzed, and the driver was incapacitated either because he had suffered a medical emergency like a heart attack at the wheel, or blacked out as result of drug or alcohol use in another 17% of the accidents.

Crash avoidance technologies like lane departure warning systems are designed to reduce the risk of accidents that occur when a car veers into another lane. These accidents are much more common than you believe, and can have serious consequences. However, the crash reduction results of lane departure warning systems have been fairly disappointing thus far. These systems have not been found to reduce accident risks to the extent we had hoped. The systems are still fairly new, and we must wait many more years to see whether these systems can have the crash reducing effects that they promise.

One of the reasons why these systems may not have worked so well in the past is that many of them are designed to give an alert to the driver, warning him that he is in danger of leaving his lane. However, if the person has suffered a medical emergency like stroke or heart attack at the wheel, or is in the middle of a seizure, or has blacked out after drinking excessively or ingesting drugs, these systems are not likely to have an effect in helping prevent an accident at all. A blacked out driver is hardly likely to respond to a visual or audible alarm delivered by the system.

The study results suggest that other approaches must be used in the design of lane departure warning systems in order to reduce the likelihood of an accident, even when the driver falls asleep or suffers a medical emergency at the wheel. Both of those factors are hugely underestimated as contributing factors in the United States every year. Drowsy driving is a major contributor to crashes across the country annually, and according to some estimates, fatigue causes as many as 21% of all fatal motor accidents. Medical episodes at the wheel seem to be less common, but can still lead to severe or fatal injuries when the driver loses control of the vehicle.

The Indiana wrongful death lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent family members of persons who have been killed as result of negligence across Indiana. If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury because someone has suffered a medical event or has been impaired in some way, contact our office as soon as possible.