Drowsy driving rising to epidemic levels

Drowsy driving can result in injury-causing or fatal car accidents.

Drowsy driving is an inherently dangerous yet all-too-common practice that has reached near-epidemic levels across the country. Research conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that drowsy driving likely causes an estimated 328,000 crashes annually, resulting in more than 109,000 injuries and 6,400 deaths. Compare this to prior estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which thought that driving while fatigued caused about 72,000 accidents each year. Furthermore, NHTSA estimates once blamed drowsy driving for around 800 fatal auto accidents annually, but the AAA study shows that the real number could be eight times as many.

Why is drowsy driving so dangerous?

Due to widespread public education campaigns, much has been learned over the years about some hazardous driver behaviors, namely driving under the influence of alcohol and distracted driving. We understand that drunk driving causes delayed reaction times, and that distracted driving can draw our attention away from the road ahead, both of which can greatly increase the chances of being involved in an accident. What many people don't understand, however, is that driving while fatigued comes with its own set of risks.

Falling asleep behind the wheel not only results in the driver's eyes coming off the road, but his or her hands could fall off the steering wheel, the vehicle can drift, and other vehicles or stationary objects could be hit as a result. In addition, drowsy driving can cause the driver to have much slower reaction times than normal. Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours before getting behind the wheel can impact driver reaction times, focus, concentration and decision-making equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05; staying up for 24 hours is akin to a BAC of .10 (which is more than the legal limit for drunk driving in every state and Washington, D.C.). This puts a driver unable to quickly take evasive action or change direction in response to shifting traffic, road hazards or weather conditions.

No substitute for adequate rest

Drowsy driving is particularly high among certain populations, namely long-haul truck drivers and shift workers. These industries involve irregular sleep patterns, and it is notoriously difficult for the body to adjust. Our bodies are simply not hard-wired to sleep at certain times of the day, and forcing them to go against natural circadian rhythms can mean inadequate rest.

If you know you haven't gotten enough rest, don't get behind the wheel. Staying off the road while you are fatigued can literally save your life or the life of someone around you. If you are driving and you notice that you are starting to get sleepy, pull over to change drivers or take a nap before you continue. Should you become injured because someone else made the negligent decision to drive while fatigued, you have legal rights and you may be able to bring a claim for compensation. To learn more, speak with the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Las Vegas office of The Gage Law Firm, PLLC. Call them at 702-869-0800 or send an email today.