Drowsy driving is a serious threat to American motorists, causing an estimated 328,000 crashes every year. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one in five fatal accidents involve a drowsy driver. Studies show that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, going just 21 hours without sleep can have the same effect on a driver’s reaction times, attentiveness, and decision-making skills as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% – higher than the legal limit in every state.
Risk Factors for Drowsy Driving
Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic and no one is immune from being involved in a drowsy driving car accident. More than 70 million Americans are sleep deprived or suffer from sleep disorders, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Busy work schedules, combined with daily responsibilities and stresses, keep many Americans from getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified certain population groups that may be at an increased risk. These include:
- Young people ages 16 to 29, especially males: Teens naturally need more sleep than adults, but most are not getting the recommended eight to 10 hours of nightly sleep, let alone the nine and a half hours considered optimal for the performance of complex tasks like driving. This lack of sleep makes this group of drivers four times more likely to have a drowsy driving accident than adults over the age of 30.
- Shift workers: Working odd hours or on rotating shifts can upset the body’s natural circadian rhythm and result in sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness. Studies indicate that night shift workers may be six times more likely to have a fatigue-related crash.
- Untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea: More than 42 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder and a large portion go undiagnosed. In addition to increasing the risk of a drowsy driving accident, sleep disorders can cause a multitude of health, mood, and behavior problems for sufferers.
- Sleep loss or sleep restriction: Studies show that getting less than four hours of sleep even one night can cause extreme sleepiness. Regularly losing one or two hours of sleep each night can cause chronic sleepiness. Both situations have a significant impact on driving ability and greatly increase a driver’s chance of falling asleep at the wheel.
- Driving patterns: Driving at odd hours or for prolonged periods of time without a break can increase crash risk. People in the transportation industry are at a particularity high risk. Researchers estimate that fatigue is a factor in more than 15% of heavy truck accidents.
- Use of sedating medications: Certain prescription and over the counter drugs are known to cause drowsiness in users. These may include narcotic pain pills, some antidepressants, muscle relaxers, some antihistamines, and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Alcohol combined with any of these increases sedating effects.
- Consumption of alcohol: Driving under the influence of alcohol is a known hazard. However, alcohol, even in low doses, can dramatically exacerbate the effects of inadequate sleep in drivers.
Characteristics of a Drowsy Driving Accident
Studies have shown that more of these crashes result in injury or death compared to other, nonalcohol-related crashes. The cause of these accidents can be difficult to prove because the driver might be unaware, or unwilling to admit that their fatigue contributed to the crash. Unlike in cases of drunk driving accidents, there is no measurable test authorities can use to prove that drowsiness was a factor in a car crash. However, there are certain subjective and objective tools investigators can use to detect driver sleepiness.
- Crash occurs during late night / early morning hours or midafternoon
- Crash occurs on a high-speed road
- Vehicle left the roadway
- The driver was alone
- Lack of skid marks indicates the driver did not attempt to brake
- Witnesses observed driver swerving or nodding off prior to crash
- Employment records show the driver had been working too long or with inadequate time for rest
Car Accident Attorneys Obtain Compensation For Those Injured By Drowsy Drivers
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, South Jersey car accident lawyers at Grungo Colarulo work with leading experts for accident investigation, deposition, and trial testimony in order to build the strongest case possible and ensure you receive maximum compensation.
Our offices are located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, allowing us to represent clients throughout the area. Call 877-679-7772today to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable South Jersey personal injury lawyers or complete an online contact form.