Accidents involving in a sleepy driver are more common than most people think. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 car accidents each year in the United States resulting in more than 71,000 injuries and $12.5 million in damages. Additionally, the American Automobile Association (AAA) reports an estimated 6,400 people die each year because of a sleepy driver.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is recognized during the first week of November, every year. As we head into a busy holiday season when more truckers and drivers are on the road, many of which are picking up extra hours, it’s a good time to remind everyone about the dangers of sleepy driving and to provide some life-saving tips. After all, accidents associated with drowsy driving are 100% preventable.
Dangers Surrounding a Sleepy Driver
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1 in 25 adult drivers have fallen asleep while driving, and many more admit to driving when they were sleep deprived.
These alarming statistics highlight how prevalent drowsy driving is becoming. Did you know that drowsy driving is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol? When a drowsy driver gets behind the wheel of a truck, a car, or any other moving vehicle, they have decreased concentration and impaired vision, coordination, and judgement.
- Drivers’ reaction times, awareness of hazards, and ability to sustain attention all worsen when a driver becomes drowsy. And it becomes worse, the more tired they get.
Here’s something else to think about.
- Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – which is the U.S. legal limit.
These dangers are alarming and highlight the importance of understanding and taking steps to prevent tired driving. Sometimes the trickiest part of drowsy driving is a driver may not even know when he or she is fatigued because signs of fatigue can be hard to identify.
Signs You May be Too Tired to Drive
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, you may be experiencing drowsy driving if you are:
- Yawning frequently or having difficulty keeping your eyes open
- Nodding off or having trouble keeping your head up
- Not recalling the last few miles of your drive
- Missing road signs or turns
- Having difficulty maintaining your speed
- Drifting out of your lane
Who is Most at Risk for Driver Fatigue?
It may come as no surprise that truck drivers are prone to driver fatigue. Due to long hours and irregular schedules, many commercial truck drivers are often sleep deprived and not alert behind the wheel.
Shift workers, especially those who work the night shift, a rotating shift or more than one job
Drivers with untreated sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea)
Business travelers who spend many hours driving or flying
Drivers taking medications that may cause drowsiness
Employees who typically work more than 60 hours per week
Steps to Take to Avoid Drowsy Driving
While drowsy driving may be more prevalent in some industries, drowsy driving impacts everyone, including adolescents and teens. Health experts recommend teens get eight to ten hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many teens these days.
There are steps parents can take to help combat drowsy driving with their teen. Having them sign a parent-teen driving agreement is a great first step in ensuring your teen is well rested, but also following other rules of the road.
Other ways our government, auto manufacturers, and employers are working to ensure a sleepy driver isn’t getting behind the wheel include:
- Crash-avoidance technologies: Safety technologies in newer model cars, such as drowsiness alert and lane departure warnings, detect common drowsy driving patterns and warn drivers to stay in their lane or take a break.
- University interventions: College students receive less than average sleep, with some estimates at less than six hours a night. Thankfully, many colleges and universities are implementing education programs aimed at college students, in hopes it helps curb drowsy driving and instill healthier behaviors that can last into adulthood.
- Medication labels: An article by Consumer Reports found that side-effect warnings are not always clear. New labeling guidelines are in the works to better help drivers understand when to drive or not drive after taking these medications.
- Employer action: Many workplaces educate their staff about the dangers of drowsy driving and share tips on how to avoid sleepy driving.
Here are some additional steps everyone can take to ensure they are getting the best sleep possible, every night.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured by a Sleepy Driver
Car accidents involving drowsy driving tend to be particularly catastrophic, as they often happen at high speeds and involve devastating injuries.
It is important for anyone who finds themselves involved in a drowsy driving accident to take action to protect their legal rights. Here are the steps our drowsy driving accident attorneys recommend you take:
- Seek emergency medical assistance for injuries
- Obtain the contact information of the other parties involved
- Take photographs of the scene of the accident, including damage to the vehicles and injuries
- Collect contact information of any witnesses who saw the accident happen
- Obtain a copy of the police report written by the officer who responded to the accident
- Gather copies of all treatment-related documents, including invoices and bills
As soon as possible, you should also contact an experienced car accident attorney. Your car accident lawyer can work with a team of investigators to collect additional evidence, such as possible surveillance videos and reconstruction analysis.
Talk to a Drowsy Driving Accident Attorney in York, PA
Injured by a drowsy driver? You need the advice of an experienced drowsy driving accident attorney. The Personal Injury attorneys of Dale E. Anstine have been protecting the rights of the injured in Central PA for over 40 years.
Our attorneys are supported by an experienced team of paralegals, investigators, secretaries and other staff who will explore every aspect of your case, offering personal support throughout the process.
We’re available 24/7 for free consultations. Please contact us today to discuss the details of your crash and learn about all your legal options.