During the first half of the 20th century, law enforcement officers and insurance companies began to recognize the dangers posed by drowsy drivers. Many of the laws enacted to regulate long-haul trucking were intended to force commercial drivers to take sleep breaks by limiting the number of consecutive hours they could drive, but the laws have had varying degrees of success. Furthermore, no federal agency has a similar power over noncommercial drivers. As a result, drowsy driving continues to be a serious problem that is only now beginning to receive the attention it deserves.
What Is Drowsy Driving?
Simply stated, drowsy driving is operating a vehicle while sleepy or fatigued. Typically, the driver has had insufficient sleep, but he or she may also be suffering from an untreated sleep disorder or the effects of changing shifts, consuming alcohol, or taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Why Are Drowsy Drivers Dangerous?
Studies have shown that driving performance is significantly impaired when drivers are sleepy and tired. Drowsy drivers can exhibit symptoms that are quite similar to drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being drowsy can impact the driver’s ability to exercise good judgment when making decisions, and it also slows his or her reaction time and affects his or her ability to pay attention to other vehicles, road conditions and traffic signs. They may drift into another lane, have trouble focusing on the road, find that they cannot remember the last few miles of their trip, or even fall fast asleep behind the wheel.
How Prevalent Is Drowsy Driving?
Even if a drowsy driver is involved in an accident, there is no definitive test that can be used to determine whether a driver is or was too sleepy to drive. Alert law enforcement officers may notice that someone is driving erratically or unsafely, and they may pull the driver over to test his or her sobriety. However, should the driver not be under the influence of alcohol, the officer may have no grounds to prevent the driver from continuing to drive. Therefore, when studies are conducted to determine the prevalence of drowsy driving, they rely on participants to answer questions honestly. Most experts believe that the results of these studies are understated. However, even assuming that the problem is no more widespread than the studies show, the facts are alarming.
- A study conducted by the American Automobile Association in 2010 found that 41% of the respondents admitted that they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in their lives. More than 27% reported driving while being so sleepy that they experienced difficulty keeping their eyes open.
- Based on the study, the AAA estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for more than 16% of all traffic accidents involving a fatality and an additional 12.5% of accidents requiring the hospitalization of at least one passenger or driver.
- The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that drowsy driving is the probable cause of over 50% of crashes that result in the death of a commercial truck driver. Furthermore, for every driver fatality, there are between three and four additional deaths resulting from the accident.
Are Certain Groups More Likely to Fall Asleep While Driving?
People with sleep disorders, commercial truck drivers, people who take sedatives, young males and shift workers have been identified as population groups who are more likely to drive while drowsy. However, nodding off while driving can happen to anyone. A new parent, someone who is working long hours during a company’s busy season, individuals who have suffered a devastating loss that has affected their ability to sleep, or a vacationer returning home from a trip can all be candidates for drowsy driving.
Are Drowsy Driving Accidents More Common During Certain Time Periods?
Most accidents involving drowsiness occur late at night or during the early hours of morning. The body interprets darkness as a signal that it is time to sleep. However, it is interesting to note that older drivers are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident in the middle of the afternoon.
Do Drowsy Driving Accidents Occur More Often in Urban or Rural Areas?
Although drowsy driving accidents can happen anywhere, they are more common on dark, monotonous stretches of a highway. If the road has little traffic, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel can be magnified.
I Was Injured in an Accident and Suspect That the Other Driver Was Driving While Drowsy. Who Should I Call?
If you have been injured in an accident that occurred in Nevada or Arizona, contact Lloyd Baker Powerhouse Injury Attorneys for a free case consultation. We can use our experience to look for evidence that suggests the other driver was guilty of driving while he or she was too sleepy to operate a vehicle safely. We have offices in Phoenix and Las Vegas; the number for our Phoenix office is 602-265-5555, and the number for our Las Vegas office is 702-444-2222. If you prefer, you can use the chat feature or contact form on our website.