Remaining attentive behind the wheel is essential for safe driving. Unfortunately, many motorists still drive when they are too tired to do so safely. Drowsy driving is similar to driving while impaired by alcohol and triples the risks for getting into car accidents.
The impact of fatigued driving
Reaction times, hazard awareness and the ability to stay attentive drop as drivers become drowsy. Driving after going over 20 hours without sleep is similar to driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or over.
Drowsy drivers can experience microsleep with short and involuntary periods of inattention. A vehicle can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes for a driver to experience four or five seconds of microsleep.
Drivers may not even know that they are fatigued as it can be really difficult to identify the signs. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, symptoms include frequent yawning, difficulty keeping eyes open, nodding off briefly, difficulty keeping head elevated, missing short-term memory, failure to notice road signs or turns, trouble maintaining speed, and lane drifting.
Get the facts
Approximately 20% of motorists admitted to falling asleep while driving in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Over 40% of drivers said they experienced drowsy driving at least once in their lifetime. An estimated 50% of fatigued driving accidents were caused by drivers under 25 years old.
There are approximately 100,000 police-reported accidents involving drowsy driving each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These involved over 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries, although actual figures could be higher since it’s difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy when an accident occurred.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 328,000 fatigued driving accidents occur each year. This is three times the number reported by police, according to the AAA study. The organization also found that injuries occurred in 109,000 of the accidents and that approximately 6,400 of the injuries were fatal. AAA researchers estimate that the real number of drowsy driving deaths could be 350% higher than reported.
Fatigued driving is also expensive. Drowsy driving accidents involving death or injury cost $109 billion each year, according to the NHTSA.
Victims of a crash caused by a drowsy driver may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury attorney can represent victims in court and during settlement negotiations.