You have likely heard about drunk driving, and you are probably aware of distracted driving. After all, it is common to see people chatting on their cellphones after they get behind the wheel. "Drowsy driving" is a much more unfamiliar term, but the consequences of operating a vehicle while sleepy can be just as severe, if not more so, as driving while intoxicated or distracted.
Drowsy driving is relatively difficult to identify
When a motor vehicle crash or traffic violation occurs, a breathalyzer test or something similar can determine whether alcohol is involved. Similarly, a driver or witnesses at the scene can testify that a cellphone or another type of distraction played a role. On the other hand, fatigue is harder to nail down, and many police officers do not have adequate education in understanding its role in crashes and how to identify it. Furthermore, many drivers are reluctant to admit that they drove while drowsy (or even asleep).
Even with incomplete data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving causes at least $12.5 billion in various damages every year, with 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. It bears repeating that this is only a minimum estimate.
Not enough people are aware of its dangers
According to research in Australia, staying awake for 18 hours can affect your driving skills as much as a 0.05 blood alcohol concentration. For comparison, a driver in Texas is considered intoxicated with a BAC of 0.08, and noticeable impairments in driving skills can occur at much lower levels. Stay awake 24 hours, and you could have the "drowsy" equivalent of a 0.10 BAC, according to the research. That is not all; the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety points to a fourfold to fivefold increased risk of crashing for people who sleep fewer than five hours a day. The risk is a still-substantial two times more for those who get six to seven hours of snooze time versus eight hours or more.
Certain segments are more at risk for drowsy driving
The National Sleep Foundation indicates that people who work erratic hours or shifts drive drowsy more often, as do parents whose minor children live with them. Also, if you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, you could be more prone to falling asleep while driving. More men than women drive while fatigued and are at increased risk for falling asleep. As for age ranges, the group that drives sleepy the most is 18- to 29-year-olds; the group that does the least drowsy driving is adults 65 years and older.
Car crashes can lead to many types of personal injuries, and you may struggle with some of them for a lifetime. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash and suspect that drowsy driving played a role, getting in touch with an attorney can help your search for answers.