Drowsy driving, or driving a motor vehicle when fatigued or sleepy, is a condition that can affect anyone while they are behind the wheel. Drowsy driving raises the risk of accidents considerably and causes a disconcertingly high number of traffic accident injuries and fatalities every year.
Each year, drowsy driving takes a huge toll in terms of loss of lives and money in the United States. Often, it is the fatal combination of fatigue or sleepiness, mixed with driving. While it happens mostly when a driver loses focus due to lack of sleep, there may be other reasons such as alcohol, medications, sleep disorders, or shift work.
It is dangerous for everyone on the road if a motorist falls asleep while driving, but drowsiness impairs your ability as a safe driver even without falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsiness slows down your reaction time, hampers your concentration level, and affects your decision-making ability.
Some Drowsy Driving Statistics
- According to an estimate, one in twenty-five drivers report falling asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days, at any given point in time
- As per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, drowsy driving was the reason behind at least 91,000 accidents, causing nearly 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities, in 2017
- However, according to estimates by researchers, the actual numbers could be much higher due to underreporting, and drowsy drivers are responsible for up to 6,000 fatal collisions each year
- Estimates show that roughly 21% of fatal car accidents involve a drowsy driver
- Individuals who snore, or sleep for fewer than six hours in a day, are likely to fall asleep when driving
Common Causes of Drowsy Driving
Lack of Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a major cause of extreme daytime drowsiness, which may prompt excessive sleepiness while driving. A substantial number of people fail to get seven to nine hours of minimum recommended sleep each night.
Often, sleep disorders remain undetected and go untreated, causing excessive drowsiness during routine daytime activities such as driving. Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, cause restrictions and interruptions in a person’s sleep, making it less restorative.
The use of alcohol induces sleepiness and affects reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents while driving under the influence.
Use of certain medications may prompt sleepiness directly, or as a side-effect. Prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and over-the-counter medicines, taken at night, may leave a person feeling groggy the next day.
Time of Day
The circadian rhythm of our bodies causes sleepiness to peak twice during the 24-hour cycle, in the mid-afternoon, or between midnight and 6 am. It is no surprise motor vehicle accidents due to drowsy driving mostly occur at these times of the day.
The Most Likely Candidates for Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving may affect anyone at the wheel of a motor vehicle, but certain people or groups of people pose a higher risk of being involved in drowsy driving car accidents, including:
- Sleep-deprived drivers
- Commercial bus drivers, long-haul truckers, tow trucks operators
- People who work long shifts, irregular hours, or night shifts
- People with sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea
- People on medications that induce sleepiness
- Teenagers with little driving experience combined with sleep depravation
Signs of Drowsy Driving
Learning to recognize some clearly evident signs of drowsy driving can help you protect a loved one or yourself, while on the road, or behind the wheel. Keep an eye on these telltale signs of drowsy driving to avert potential accidents. Some of these signs are:
- Frequent blinking, or tired eyes
- Difficulty remembering to take the correct exit
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
- Drifting aimlessly across the lanes
- Memory lapses
- Straying towards the rumble strips at the side of the roads
- Frequent yawning
- Tailgating other cars
- Inability to maintain proper speed
If you see or feel any of these symptoms, treat them as warning signs and pull over as soon as you can to rest, or change drivers if you are traveling with someone. Rolling down the window or turning up the volume on the car radio will not help to keep you alert, effectively.
If you see any other driver displaying any of these warning signs, remain alert and be ready to create a gap between you and the other vehicle. The other driver might be either fatigued or inebriated. Stay out of their way safely, by slowing down and dropping back.
If you absolutely must pass, make sure to do so with extreme caution. However, if the other driver is being completely reckless, you should pull over and call the authorities immediately.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Georgia
If you or a loved one is a victim of an accident where the other driver was guilty of drowsy driving or any other negligence, our auto accident attorneys at Stein & Fox can help you get the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries. Our lawyers will help with a legal strategy based on the specifics of your case in order to seek and claim the maximum possible compensation for you.
Call today at (770) 961-1700 or contact us online, to set up a free, no-obligation consultation to get started.