When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you trust that other drivers are sober, alert and capable of safely operating their vehicles. An alarming number of drivers get behind the wheel when they are not alert and some actually fall asleep at the wheel. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as many as six in ten drivers have driven while drowsy, and approximately two in ten have fallen asleep while driving.
Drivers who get behind the wheel when they are fatigued put themselves, their passengers and others on the road at risk. Without sufficient rest, drivers have slowed reaction time, impaired judgment and frequent lapses in attentiveness.
How Prevalent is Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving is surprisingly prevalent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there were approximately 90,000 crashes related to drowsy driving in 2015. These resulted in approximately 800 deaths and over 40,000 injuries. It’s likely that available statistics underestimate the extent of the problem, and it’s impossible to know for sure how many accidents are actually caused by driver sleepiness or fatigue.
Wrecks caused by fatigue can happen any time of the day, but are most likely to occur between midnight and 6 a.m. They often happen on highways or rural roads, and in many cases, the driver was operating the vehicle alone without any passengers in the car.
Is Drowsy Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?
The National Sleep Foundation reports that lack of sleep can have a dramatic effect on the body that is similar to driving under the influence of mind-altering substances. It’s especially dangerous to drive after staying awake for 18-24 hours.
In some ways, drowsy driving is more dangerous than driving drunk because someone driving under the influence may attempt to drive slowly, while someone who is sleep deprived may fall asleep while traveling at a fast speed. A drowsy driver may not even apply the brakes if there is a sudden hazard in the road.
Laws That Apply to Drowsy Driving
As research continues to reveal the dangers of driving while drowsy, the need for awareness and change is coming to the attention of lawmakers, and efforts are being made to reduce the number of drowsy drivers on the road. Some states have designated certain days as Drowsy Driver Awareness Day, while Florida and Texas both have a designated “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.”
With or without laws specific to drowsy driving, drivers who cause car accidents because of drowsiness or falling asleep at the wheel can be charged with other offenses. Driving fast while asleep at the wheel can lead to a charge of reckless driving. Drivers who cause accidents involving serious injury or fatalities can face even more serious charges.
Signs That You May Be Too Tired to Drive
All drivers need to take responsibility for only operating a motor vehicle when they are completely alert. The following signs may indicate that you’re too tired to drive:
- Missing turns or road signs
- Drifting out of your lane
- Frequent yawning
- Having difficulty keeping your eyes open
If you have any of these warning signs of drowsiness, find a safe place to pull off the road. Take a short nap if possible. Coffee or energy drinks may give a short-term solution but their effects only last a short amount of time and aren’t enough if you are sleep deprived.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence and possibly drowsiness, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation to get your questions answered, contact Taos Injury Lawyers by filling out the form on this page.