Many Americans do not know how big of a problem drowsy driving has become. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that nearly 100,000 auto accidents per year are the result of drowsy driving.
The National Sleep Foundation also revealed that nearly 50 percent of all American adults reported driving drowsy and 20 percent admit that they have actually fallen asleep while driving in the past year.
How Many Traffic Deaths and Injuries are Caused by Drowsy Driving?
Approximately one-third of Americans do not get the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis. An estimated one in 25 adults report falling asleep in the past 30 days.
According to NHTSA statistics cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths from about 72,000 drowsy driving crashes in 2013 alone. The NHTSA also estimates that there are as many as 6,000 fatal crashes involving a drowsy driver every year.
How Do Drowsy Driving Accidents Happen?
Drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to be involved in a crash compared to drivers who get seven hours of sleep or more. In fact, as your sleep decreases, the higher the likelihood you will be involved in an accident.
Sleep deprivation can result in slower reaction times and impaired judgment. You are also more likely to get distracted or fail to pay attention to what is happening around you. Car accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, so slowed reaction can greatly increase your risk of a crash.
Fatigue also increases your risk of falling asleep at the wheel. If you fall asleep for only a few seconds at high speed, you will lose control of your vehicle for several hundred feet.
Who is Most at Risk for Being Involved in a Drowsy Driving Accident?
Certain groups have a much higher risk of being involving in a drowsy driving crash, including:
- Shift workers – Those who work late shifts or rotating shifts are more likely to drive while drowsy and be involved in these types of accidents. In fact, shift workers, those who work double shifts, and those who have more than one job are six times more likely to involved in a drowsy driving crash.
- Overworked parents – Those who have small children or are managing demanding schedules are also less likely to get adequate sleep and drive while tired.
- Commercial and business travelers – Those who drive commercially or for business are also more likely to be involved in an accident caused by drowsy driving. These individuals spend a lot of time on the road, and they may suffer from jet lag and boredom behind the wheel. Commercial drivers also have a higher risk of suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
- Young drivers – They are more inexperienced behind the wheel, and they are more likely to drive at night. The combination increases their likelihood to be involved in a drowsy driving crash.
What Are the Signs of Fatigued Driving?
It is difficult to predict when you may fall asleep behind the wheel. There may be very little warning between feeling tired and falling asleep, particularly for those who have sleep disorders. Signs of drowsy driving may include:
- Feeling restless or aggressive
- Trouble focusing
- Forgetting what happened for prior stretches of road
- Drifting from your lane
- Missing signs or exits
- Head bobbing forward or back
How Can I Prevent Drowsy Driving?
The best way to prevent fatigued driving is to ensure that you get adequate sleep on a regular basis. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night. This is especially important if you are going for a long drive.
You should also avoid driving during times that you would usually be sleeping. The most dangerous times to drive when you are fatigued or sleep deprived are between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
It is a common misconception that you can roll down a window or listen to the radio loudly to deal with fatigue. These tricks may last for a short time, but they often just give you a false sense of alertness. If you feel fatigued, pull over for a nap before continuing your trip.
Contact a Harrisburg Car Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in an auto accident due to a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and other damages.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation to discuss potential legal options with our experienced attorneys. We take cases on contingency, so you will not be charged legal fees unless you receive compensation.