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Drowsy Driving and the Law

Drowsy Driving and the Law
We’ve all done it at some point: pushing through fatigue to keep driving despite the risk of falling asleep and causing an accident. Every year drowsy driving causes hundreds of fatalities and many more non-fatal injuries throughout the country. A tired driver can fall asleep for intervals as short as a few seconds, which is enough time for an accident to occur.

How Nevada law handles drowsy driving

A few states have enacted legislation that specifically addresses fatigued driving. For example, in New Jersey someone who drives after not sleeping for 24 hours is deemed to be a reckless driver and treated in the same way as someone who is driving while intoxicated. N.J. Stat. § 2C:11-5(a). Nevada has not enacted such a law, and the example from New Jersey suggests why. New Jersey’s measure of fatigue—24 hours without sleep—is an extreme case that doesn’t come close to capturing the full range of tired drivers. Legislating for ordinary tiredness is difficult and would be hard to enforce. As a practical matter what the lack of specific laws means is that a tired driver is held to the same standard that applies to all drivers. Every driver on Nevada’s roads has a range of legal duties. These include obeying traffic laws and rules, such as following signs and complying with signals. Drivers must give pedestrians right-of-way. And all drivers owe a general duty of care to operate their vehicles in a reasonable way to protect pedestrians, other drivers, and personal property on and around the roadway. Driving while fatigued is arguably an unreasonably dangerous way to operate a car. Breaching any of these duties can be a basis for a claim of negligence against the driver. Someone who is found liable for negligence will be responsible for paying medical bills and other damages to injured parties. Even if the driver’s insurance covers some of these expenses, the driver can expect to have long-term financial consequences as a result of the accident. In extreme cases fatigued driving may also be a crime. If a fatigued driver falls asleep and causes an accident that leads to someone’s death, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter, a crime punishable by jail time and a suspended or revoked driver’s license. NRS 484B.657.

Pull over, rest, or change drivers

The essential thing to bear in mind about drowsy driving is that it’s very difficult to overcome sleepiness without taking a real break. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends pulling over to take a 20-minute nap as a good short-term solution for fatigue. It’s better to switch drivers if possible. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped victims of car accidents recover compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured in an accident with a driver who was asleep at the wheel and you have questions about your legal options, our attorneys can help. To speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributed to 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries nationwide in 2015. In response to this danger, many states have passed laws regulating cell phone use while driving. Nevada followed suit in 2011.

Handheld cell phone use while driving is illegal in Nevada

NRS 484B.165 regulates the use of handheld devices while driving in the state. The law makes it a misdemeanor to text, talk, or use data services on a handheld wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle. A violation results in a fine: $50 for a first offense, up to $250 for repeat offenders. The law provides a range of specific exceptions for when handheld phone use is not a crime. These include:
  • Use by first responders (police, firefighters, EMS) acting within the course and scope of their employment.
  • Use to report or request assistance with a medical emergency, safety hazard, or criminal activity.
  • Any use that is responding to a situation requiring immediate action to protect the health, welfare, or safety of the driver or another person, where stopping the vehicle would be inadvisable, impractical, or dangerous.
  • Use by licensed amateur radio operators in connection with a disaster or emergency, or a training exercise to prepare for a disaster or emergency.
  • An employee of a public utility who is using a utility-provided device and is responding to an emergency, including a power outage.

Unlawful cell phone use and personal injury lawsuits

A violation of NRS 484B.165 can be more than just a misdemeanor. The law’s purpose is to prevent unsafe behavior behind the wheel. A violation can be a significant factor in a personal injury lawsuit brought against a driver who causes an accident while distracted by a cell phone or other device in violation of the law. Negligence per se is a legal rule that injured plaintiffs can use to create a presumption of liability against the defendant. It applies where the defendant violated a statute like NRS 484B.165, and the violation was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Barnes v. Delta Lines, 99 Nev. 688, 690 (1983). The rule may apply where a defendant’s cell phone records show that the phone was in use at the time of the accident and no hands-free device was in use. The causation question will depend on the facts of the case, but in cases of distracted driving can often be shown by the nature of the accident.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured in a car accident and have questions about how to pursue your case, our attorneys are available to help. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.