In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 846 lives were lost in 2014 from drowsy driving incidents.
Now, NHTSA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Sleep Foundation have teamed up to prevent drowsy driving. Drowsy Driving Awareness Week is the first week of November, and everyone can do their part to not only ensure they are not driving fatigued, but bring awareness to friends and family members.
What Is the Harm of Driving Drowsy?
You know that driving while intoxicated is dangerous, which is why you do your part not to drink and drive. But, do you know the dangers of being drowsy?
Drowsiness limits your ability to make sound judgments, react, and limits your performance overall – just as if you were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
Statistical Proof that Drowsy Driving Is Deadly
One study conducted by AAA found that most tired drivers cannot stay awake on the road, which would explain the estimated 72,000 accidents caused by drowsy drivers in 2013.
Per the AAA study, more than one-third of drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel, and one out of ten admitted to falling asleep once in the past year. The study, which was completed in November 2014, found that drowsy driving has a severe impact on roadway safety.
- An estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes in 2014 involved tired drivers – which was a 16.5 percent increase from the previous year’s data.
- Tired drivers often drift out of their lane, which can lead to catastrophic accidents.
- Crash risks increased dramatically when a motorist gets 1 to 2 hours less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
- An estimated 328,000 crashes occur each year because of drowsy drivers, and an estimated 109,000 injuries result from these crashes.
Other Interesting Facts About Drowsy Driving
- Time Matters – Most drowsy driving accidents happen late at night or early in the morning. However, there is also evidence that people become fatigued during their rush-hour drive home, especially if they do not receive enough sleep the night before.
- Speed – Catastrophic drowsy driving accidents occur at higher speeds; typically, while a driver is on the highway.
- Behavior – Behaviors like veering out of a lane, making no effort to brake, or suddenly braking out of nowhere are indicators that a driver is inattentive and possibly drowsy.
Do You Know the Signs of Drowsy Driving?
Many motorists are unaware that they are too tired to drive safely, and can even be unaware that they have fallen asleep at the wheel.
Since people cannot predict when they are about to fall asleep, it is important to know the warning signs that you are becoming too tired to drive.
The following are signs you are too tired to drive safely:
- Difficulty focusing, keeping your head up, or keeping your eyes open
- Feeling overly aggressive and irritable
- Poor judgment or slowed reaction times – such as braking suddenly instead of coming slowly to a stop
- Yawning or rubbing your eyes continuously
- Wandering thoughts or daydreaming instead of focusing
- Inability to recall the last few miles driven
- Drifting in and out of your lane or missing turns and exits
If you notice any of these signs, then you are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Note that you can have these symptoms even if you did get eight hours of sleep. Regardless of the reason, if you find yourself doing any of the action mentioned above – please pull over immediately or find a safe spot to stop. Then, either find someone to get your home by calling family or friends, or take a short nap, get some caffeine, or just get some fresh air to help you wake back up before driving again.
Are You at Risk for Drowsy Driving?
Anyone who drives has a risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. However, some motorists have a higher chance than others, including:
- Age: Younger drivers are at higher risk for drowsy driving because you are combining driving inexperience with their tendency to operate a vehicle at night. Males between 16 and 25 years are the highest risk age group for fatigued driving.
- Shift Workers: Shift workers, especially those on the graveyard shift, rotating shifts, and working longer than eight-hour periods are at a higher risk for drowsy driving. Also, those who work more than one job increase their risk for drowsy driving.
- Commercial Drivers: Semi-truck drivers are at high risk because they often drive for extended periods of time. Also, commercial drivers tend to suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia, due to their limited sleep schedules; putting them at a higher than average risk.
- Untreated Sleep Disorders: Any time you have a condition that prevents you from getting quality sleep each night you are at risk for fatigued driving. Certain conditions like untreated sleep apnea increase the likelihood you will fall asleep behind the wheel by seven times compared to someone without the condition. If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, seek treatment immediately.
- Business Travelers: Traveling for work means often staying in unfamiliar places, which reduces the chances of quality sleep. This – coupled with the fact that they often use unfamiliar rental cars while driving in unfamiliar cities – all adds up to an increased accident risk.
What You Can Do to Prevent Drowsy Driving
You can do your part to avoid drowsy driving by getting enough sleep every night. In addition to rest, here are a few more ways you can prevent fatigued driving:
- Know Your Medications: Do not drive if you are taking medications that cause drowsiness. These medicines have sleep warning labels. If you need to drive, talk to your physician about a different drug that will not make you as drowsy.
- Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol limits your ability to make judgments but also can make you drowsy. Even if you have just one drink and are well under the legal blood alcohol limit, that drink will increase any fatigue you may already be feeling and can lead to drowsy driving.
- Sleep: Do you know how much sleep you should get each night? Per the National Sleep Foundation, young adults (18 to 25 years) and adults (26 to 64 years) need seven to nine hours each night. Older adults (65 years or more) only need seven to eight hours. However, some adults need more sleep than others, while a few can get away with an hour or so less than the recommendation. Only you can assess if you are fully rested in the morning. If you find yourself dragging throughout the day, consider going to bed just one hour earlier to see if it improves your alertness level.
- Use Caffeine: When necessary, consume caffeine before a long drive. But do not use caffeine as a replacement for good sleep. Be aware that caffeine will wear off a few hours after consumed. This may lead to an energy crash that can also be dangerous if you are in the middle of a long road trip.
Filing a Drowsy Driving Lawsuit – More Complicated Than You Think
Even if you know that the driver who caused your accident was drowsy, proving it for a personal injury case is complicated. That is why it is essential that you speak with an injury attorney. An attorney can help you gather evidence and increases the chances of a successful case.
The Evidence Issues
Proving that a driver was drunk is relatively easy – mainly because there are chemical tests that will determine the driver’s blood alcohol level. Unfortunately, there are no chemical tests that reveal if a driver was drowsy or fell asleep at the wheel.
Furthermore, the issue cannot be prevented by enacting new laws, because there is no way for law enforcement to prove for sure that a driver was asleep or fatigued.
As of right now, only one state has drowsy driving laws, and even their law does not resolve the issue of drowsy driving. Instead, the New Jersey law requires that prosecutors prove the motorist was awake for 24 consecutive hours before they can be officially charged with drowsy driving.
Drowsy Driving Investigative Tools Can Help
If there are no laws or tests to prove distracted driving, what does a plaintiff have left? Luckily, there are still critical pieces of evidence that can show the defendant was drowsy or even asleep. These include:
- Accident Reports – The accident report might help prove a case, especially if it is noted that the defendant veered out of their lane multiple times. Combining these facts with other pieces of evidence makes determining that the driver was drowsy easier.
- Witness Testimony – A witness might have seen the driver falling asleep at the wheel. Chances are that the only witness who could clearly know this would be a passenger in the same vehicle, but having such a witness is powerful evidence.
- Prescription Medication – If the defendant was prescribed medications that make him or her drowsy, this could play a role in proving your case.
- Daily Activities – To show that the driver was up too long or could have been fatigued at the time of the accident, you will need to gather information about their daily activities. That might include work or school schedules, cellphone records, and debit card transactions.
Injured by a Drowsy Driver? You May Have a Case
While proving drowsy driving is difficult, it is not impossible. When you work with an attorney, like those at Malman Law, you increase the chances that you will have a successful case.
Most importantly, when someone’s negligence causes an accident, it is vital that you explore your options for compensation. Motor vehicle accidents often lead to extensive medical costs, lost wages, and suffering.
Let the attorneys at Malman Law help you receive the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation now at 888-625-6265, or request more information online.