Over the past several decades, much attention has been paid to the dangers of speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and driving while distracted. However, one of the biggest threats to on-the-road safety is one most motorists might not consider: drowsy driving.
Driver fatigue causes at least 100,000 accidents each year, and a 2016 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that driving while sleepy is just as impairing as driving drunk. And yet, people who would never dream of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after having a few drinks routinely get in their car and take their kids to school, run errands, and drive to and from work when they've had far too little rest.
The consequences of driving while drowsy can be catastrophic. If you were injured in a crash caused by a sleep-deprived motorist, you know this all too well. Fortunately, the victims of drowsy driving accidents have legal options.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
The statistics of drowsy driving are alarming—particularly so when you consider that it's difficult to conclusively attribute accidents to drowsiness. Since there's not a roadside test police can administer to determine sleep impairment, accident-reporting practices aren't standardized, and drowsy drivers are unlikely to self-report when their lack of adequate sleep results in an accident.
For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 accidents, approximately 40,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year. However, the agency admits that the actual number of accidents, injuries, and deaths related to fatigue are likely much higher, because the stated statistics don't include daytime or multi-vehicle crashes.
Consider these startling statistics:
- 60 percent of adults admit to driving while fatigued in the past year, and 37 percent confess to actually having fallen asleep while driving.
- 13 percent of people who admit to falling asleep behind the wheel say it's a regular (at least once monthly) occurrence.
- 4 percent say their drowsy driving resulted in an accident or near accident.
- The percentage of drivers involved in fatal sleep-impaired collisions rose from 16.5 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2014.
- People who get less than four hours of sleep have 11.5 times the crash risk compared to those who get the recommended seven hours of sleep.
- 97 percent of motorists describe drowsy driving as "a completely unacceptable behavior" and "a serious threat to safety."
Common Characteristics of a Drowsy Driving Accident
While it can be difficult to definitively determine if a collision was caused by a driver who didn't get enough sleep, many drowsy driving accidents share common characteristics that are dead giveaways to investigators.
Statistically, most accidents caused by sleep-deprived motorists:
- Are serious and often deadly
- Happen in the late-night hours between midnight and 8 a.m. or mid-day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
- Occur on high-speed roadways
- Are single-vehicle accidents involving a driver without passengers in the vehicle
- Show no attempt to avoid the crash (such as a lack of skid marks), suggesting the driver was nodding off or actually asleep when the incident occurred
Who's Most at Risk for Driving While Drowsy?
Statistics show that the following drivers and demographics are most likely to drive drowsy:
- People who get less than 7 hours of sleep
- Men between the ages of 18 and 29
- Shift workers and business travelers
- Commercial drivers
- Motorists with untreated sleep disorders
- People who take sedating prescription or over-the-counter medications
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were injured in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you may face a long and difficult recovery, as well as mounting medical expenses. McGartland Law's team of skilled personal injury attorneys can help you seek compensation for medical costs, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact our office today to make an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss your case.