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The Dangers of Tired Driving in Ontario


In today’s fast-paced world filled with overscheduled people, it is not surprising that tired or fatigued driving has become a larger problem than at any time in recent history. All drivers are expected and legally required to do what is necessary in order to ensure that they are exercising reasonable care when operating motor vehicles.

Part of a driver’s responsibility in exercising reasonable care is ensuring that he or she is adequately rested so that he or she can safely operate a motor vehicle. If an overly tired driver gets behind the wheel and causes an accident or injury to another party as a result, the driver may be considered to be negligent in a claim for injuries.

Fatigued driving Is not really a new problem but it has recently been recognized as a significant issue by law enforcement and also members of the public who are on the roadways.

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Tired Driving is an issue in a Significant Number of Auto Crashes

According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, fatigued or tired driving is an issue in approximately 25 percent of all fatal or injury accidents. Thus, this is a significant issue that all drivers need to be aware of.

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What constitutes “fatigued driving”?

“Fatigued driving” occurs when a driver has a “disclination to perform the driving task at hand”. This often occurs when drivers are driving for an extended period of time or when the driving environment is too monotonous or repetitive. Have you ever been on a long drive and then all of a sudden realize that you did not recall all parts of the trip because it was so monotonous? This is an example of fatigued driving. Fatigued driving also occurs when drivers do not take adequate rest or breaks when driving for a long period of time.

What does it mean to engage in “drowsy driving”?

“Drowsy driving” occurs when a driver’s normal sleep-awake cycle is interrupted. Most people feel sleepy twice per day which is generally at night and in the afternoon. For this reason, drivers who drive at these types of day are more likely to feel drowsy. This is also the reason that it is very common for accidents involving tired driving to occur either in the afternoon or the evening.

What factors contribute to “tired driving”?

  • A variety of factors contribute to instances of tired driving, including but not limited to the following:
  • The time of day is often a factor. Night time is one of the more difficult times for drivers as well as afternoon.
  • Alcohol consumption can also be a contributing factor to tired driving.
  • Driving while under the influence of certain medications, including prescription or other medications can also contribute to tired driving.
  • Extended driving time as in the case of commercial or truck drivers who drive for extended periods of time each day can also contribute to tired driving.
  • Night or rotating shift situations for workers also contribute greatly to the instances of tired driving.

Legal liability for tired driving

Drivers who engage in tired driving place themselves and others at great risk for injury and even death depending on the circumstances. In addition to the basic safety concerns raised by tired driving, there are also significant concerns for both civil liability and potential criminal citations in cases of tired driving.

Civil Liability

In general, civil liability for claims involving tired driving will fall under a negligence theory. In other words, the driver has failed to exercise reasonable care and in doing so caused damage to another party by causing an accident or injury. The types of behavior that a driver can engage in that would fall into these categories in terms of tired driving are very broad.

For example, a driver that decides to drive after not having slept or slept very little could be deemed negligent in failing to be adequately rested. If a driver is experiencing symptoms of tired driving and fails to pull over for a rest stop, this could be another example of how a driver can be negligent in cases involving tired driving.

Criminal Citations

Law enforcement officers are now attempting to take tired drivers of the road. Depending on the facts of a particular situation, a police officer may issue a written or charge the driver with an offense as may be applicable in a particular circumstance. In very egregious cases, tired driving could lead to an arrest depending on the behaviors exhibited by the driver.

Often the action taken by law enforcement will depend on which rules of the road are violated (for example, items such as an unsafe lane change, failure to obey a sign, failure to drive in a marked lane, etc). While tired driving is not itself an offense, the results of it often are as noted above or when they lead to the unfortunate incident of an automobile accident.

The typical options for criminal violations under the Criminal Code of Canada include dangerous driving, criminal negligence and impaired driving. These types of offenses can obviously occur in other situations than those involving tired driving but they are the means under which law enforcement can currently address instances of tired driving.

Drivers need to exercise reasonable care to avoid tired driving

Drivers on the roads today need to be more careful about engaging in behaviors that contribute to tired driving. The failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid tired driving can result in both criminal citations and potential civil liability in the case of injuries or accidents that may occur as a result of tired driving.

Therefore, drivers getting behind the wheel need to be aware that engaging in behaviors that fall into the wheelhouse of tired driving can result in liability on both the criminal and civil fronts.

In addition, parties injured by someone engaging in tired driving can evaluate this conduct as part of a potential negligence claim. If you are an injured party that has been the victim of an accident involving tired driving, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as you are able to do so in order to ensure that your injuries are addressed in a timely fashion and that your legal rights as a result of such injuries are adequately protected.

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