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Anyone can be a drowsy driver; all it takes is a late night, lack of sleep, or “burning the candle” at both ends to put motorists at risk of a serious or fatal accident. In any case, drowsy driving has become an epidemic. Those most likely to drive while drowsy or fatigued are commercial truck drivers; cab drivers; and late-night shift workers.

In a fatal auto-pedestrian accident in New York last month, a taxi driver struck and killed an 88-year-old woman crossing the street. The woman was inside the crosswalk and had the walk signal when she was struck. The cab driver confessed to police that he had been behind the wheel for 16 hours when the accident occurred. According to records, the cab driver had been working since 9:00 a.m. the previous day but because he took two breaks during the day, his extended shift was not subject to any penalties.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) prohibits cabbies from driving over 12 hours straight, but there is a loophole which cabbies are taking advantage of just to bring home a few extra bucks. According to the rules, the clock restarts as soon as the driver takes a break. Furthermore, there is no minimum break time, meaning that a driver can legally work more than 11 hours, take a quick rest and hit the road for another 12.

Long hours spent behind the wheel, especially during overnight hours, can lead to sleep-deprivation and fatigue that can result in serious, or fatal, mistakes. In light of this recent incident, Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the TLC, said the agency is working on more effective ways to address the serious concerns of overtired drivers and will revisit rules and will review the best practices across all the industries regulated by the TLC.

Establishing laws prohibiting drowsy driving remains a challenge; technology may prove to be a solution, but it isn’t enough. We have become a society that is in action 24/7. This drowsy driver epidemic affects us all; even the most experienced drivers are susceptible to driver fatigue. The problem won’t go away until we all realize there is no substitute for sleep.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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