Each year, drowsy driving is responsible for countless deaths and injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Drowsy driving, or sleepiness behind the wheel, does not get as much attention as it should. However, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is attempting to change that with its report entitled, “Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do About It.”

Over 300,000 Drowsy Driving Accidents Occur Each Year

According to GHSA’s report, an average of 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur in the United States every year. About 109,000 of these accidents result in injuries and 6,400 result in fatalities.

Drowsy driving accidents tend to occur in the mid-afternoon, early morning, or late at night. They typically occur on roadways with high speed travel and the driver tends to be traveling alone.

Drowsy driving accidents are also likely to involve severe injury or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reports that between 2009 and 2013, drowsy driving accidents caused approximately 41,000 injuries and 800 deaths.

It can be difficult to determine whether an accident is the result of drowsy driving. We have breathalyzer tests to determine alcohol levels in an alcohol-related accident. However, there is no similar test for drowsiness behind the wheel.

Police rely in clues at the scene of the accident to determine if the driver fell asleep at the wheel. For example, there is usually no evidence of braking in drowsy driving accidents. Police will look for a lack of skid marks or evidence of evasive movements at the scene to determine if drowsiness is a cause.

Drowsy Driving is Comparable to Drunk Driving

Most people are aware that drinking and driving is dangerous and can result in serious consequences. However, many are not aware that sleep-deprived driving is very comparable to drunk driving. According to the GHSA report:

  • 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to a .10% blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
  • 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to a .08% BAC.
  • 18 hours without sleep is equivalent to a .05% BAC.

This shows that the effects of pulling an all-nighter can be the same as someone whose BAC is over the legal limit.

The Effects of Drowsy Driving

As we said above, drowsy driving is like drunk driving. Some of the most common effects include:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decrease in awareness
  • Impaired vision
  • Easily distracted

Who is likely to drive while drowsy?

There is a good chance you, or someone you know, have driven drowsy at least once. In fact, 43.2 percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep or “nodding off” behind the wheel at least once in their lives in a 2015 survey by the AAA Foundation. One third of all drivers admitted to having trouble keeping their eyes open while driving over the past 30 days.

However, the problem of drowsy driving seems to be more prevalent among certain groups of people. Based on the GHSA report, drivers under the age of 25 are responsible for over 50 percent of drowsy driving crashes. This is not a surprise, as teens and young adults generally have stressful schedules and do not get enough sleep every night. Workers who work overnight or rotating shifts are also prone to drowsy driving.

How can I avoid drowsy driving?

Follow these tips to ensure that you are safe and alert on the roadways.

  • Make sure you get enough sleep, especially before a long drive. If you have not gotten 7-8 hours of sleep for multiple nights, your reaction time will be slower. It may take several nights of solid rest to make up for the sleep you lost.
  • Avoid even small amounts of alcohol when you are sleep deprived. One beer combined with a lack of sleep can have the same effects as two or three beers when you are not sleepy.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles while on the road.
  • Avoid driving alone. It is best to have a passenger to keep you alert and take over the wheel when you get tired.
  • Avoid driving during the late night/early morning hours, as well as in the mid-afternoon. People tend to be especially drowsy during these times.

If you were injured in an accident involving a fatigued driver, contact the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. to discuss your legal options: 404-474-0804.