Tired America: How Fatigue is Impacting Safety in the U.S.

A women sleeping in her car with her head on the steering wheel

Are you feeling a little tired? If you are, you are in good company. According to the National Safety Council, 43% of Americans don't get enough sleep. Yet, lack of sleep contributes to fatigue, and fatigue causes serious risks to safety throughout the United States.

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem in the United States, with more than 4 out 10 Americans saying they don’t get enough sleep. Find out how fatigue takes a toll on all of us.

Fatigue can cause serious problems in the workplace, on the road and out in the community. In fact, in the NSC's survey of workplace fatigue, 97% of workers surveyed reported having at least one risk factor contributing to fatigue. So what does this really mean? How does living life tired put you and the people around you at risk? Here's what you need to know about the safety risks associated with fatigue.

The Science of Fatigue

The human body requires sleep. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but modern life makes it difficult to hit that mark. When you do not get enough sleep, you can begin to feel fatigued. The Sleep Health Foundation indicates that fatigue is different than feeling tired. Fatigue causes physical and mental symptoms that can make it difficult for you to function safely. Going 17 hours without sleep can lead to similar impairments as having a blood alcohol content level of 0.05 percent.

Why are so many people struggling with fatigue today? The answer to this question is complex. For some, the demands of modern life coupled with the increase in shift work makes it difficult to get more than 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours. For others, undiagnosed sleep disorders cause poor sleep. Some deal with medications that can disrupt sleep cycles. Regardless of the cause, fatigue is a serious risk that needs to be addressed in order to keep people safe on the roads and at work.

Fatigue on the Job

Fatigue on the job is a serious risk for modern companies. When a worker is fatigued, alertness drops, and this can lead to safety violations and workplace injuries. Other results of fatigue include:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Reduced vigilance
  • Impaired decision-making ability
  • Poor judgment
  • Increased risk taking.

In most industries, from manufacturing to healthcare, these kinds of concerns can lead to serious consequences. In fact, according to Code Red Safety, 80 deaths occurred in 2013 in the industrial sector due to worker fatigue. Worker fatigue makes a worker 70% more likely to be involved in industrial accidents. And those numbers are just in the industrial industry.

Other industries carry similar risks. In the healthcare or personal care industries, fatigue can lead to mistakes that put patient health and wellness at risk. Working tired, or working with tired intervals, puts you at risk.

Fatigue on the Road

Fatigue can also create serious risks for drivers and others who share the road with them. All of the same distractions and problems created in the workplace, including distraction, impaired reaction time and impaired decision making, also occur on the road when a driver is sleepy. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 72,000 police-reported crashes occur annually due to drivers who are fatigued. This is a conservative estimate, but it equals around 800 deaths and 41,000 injuries. This represents between 2 and 20 percent of the annual traffic deaths each year. Those numbers are staggering.

Why is driving tired so dangerous? When a person is tired, they cannot react to things that happen on the road very quickly. The effect is similar to the effect of driving under the influence, but there is no way to test for driver fatigue. Thus, many drivers are on the road without enough rest, putting everyone at risk without any way to verify that they are, in fact, unsafe to be driving.

Dealing with Injuries from Fatigue

If you've been injured because someone else was at work or in the car without sufficient sleep, you may be able to seek compensation. The key is to find the right legal assistance to help you understand your rights.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence or recklessness is responsible for your injuries, the attorneys at Stabinski Law can help. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout South Florida. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form to find out how we can help you.