Drowsy Driving and Auto Accidents
Driving while sleepy has often been compared to drunk driving. The consequences of drowsy driving can be just as deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 56,000 crashes and more than 1,500 fatalities each year are caused by driver fatigue or drowsiness.
Those are just the reported accidents. In fact, the CDC reports that as many as 150,000 adults fall asleep behind the wheel each month and that the crash rate could be much higher than reported since drowsy driving is easier to conceal than some other crash factors.
Sleepy drivers who get behind the wheel could be accused of committing a negligent, if not reckless or criminal act. Driving when tired not only puts you and your passengers’ lives at risk, but it also threatens other drivers on the road.
What Does it Mean to Be “Drowsy”?
We might all wake up tired in the morning, but does that mean that we’re not fit to drive? It might if you’re not getting the proper amount of rest each night. Sleep itself is a neurobiological need and sleepiness results from interruptions in your circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness.
Studies have shown that, if your sleep is restricted by just one or two hours per night, you can suffer from chronic sleepiness. The AAA Foundation just released a study that shows missing just 1-2 hours of sleep per night can double your risk of a crash. Miss as many as three hours, and your risk quadruples. Lose an entire night’s sleep, and you’ll likely suffer from extreme short-term sleepiness. Any of these sleep-deprived conditions could lead to dangerous problems behind the wheel.
How Drowsy Driving Causes Car Accidents
Sleepiness causes car accidents because your body and brain are impaired to the point that you unable to resist falling asleep behind the wheel. The NHTSA conducted a landmark study called “Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes.” They determined that the critical aspects of impaired driving that are connected to sleepiness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing.
When a driver is drowsy, even if they are still awake, they:
are less able to pay attention to road conditions;
have a slower reaction time to events;
are less able to make good decisions.
Drowsy Driving Risk Factors
Certain factors might make you at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel. Groups who have an increased risk for drowsy driving include:
Sleep deprived. If you’re not getting enough sleep, for any reason, you should take caution behind the wheel.
Drive times. Drivers who are on the road between midnight and 6:00 a.m. or who drive long distances without breaks.
Sedating medication. Medications, particularly prescription sleep aids, can have lasting effects.
Alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol, even the night before driving can compound sleepiness.
Sleep disorders. Sleep apnea or narcolepsy can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Young people. Young adults (under 30), and particularly young men have higher rates of drowsy driving than other groups.
Drowsy Driving Accidents
If you’re involved in a drowsy driving accident or have been injured by someone who fell asleep at the wheel, these cases are difficult, but not impossible, to prove. There are several tools that law enforcement and a reputable attorney will use to prove that the driver wasn’t awake at the time of the crash.
If there were no skid marks or evidence of braking, it’s a clear sign that the driver wasn’t conscious or paying attention. Sometimes cell phone records can show how long a driver has been behind the wheel, offering evidence of extended driving. Witnesses might also offer testimony of weaving or even seeing the driving asleep behind the wheel.
A drowsy driving accident can be serious and even life-threatening. If you’ve been injured by someone that you suspect was asleep behind the wheel, contact our experienced Kentucky accident lawyers at The Ron Aslam Law Office today to schedule a free consultation. Contact us at (502) 581-1676.