Many drivers don’t realize how dangerous it is to drive while sleepy or fatigued.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps data on all traffic collisions reported to the police. They tell us that there are approximately 100,000 motor vehicle accidents due to drowsy driving every year. NHTSA data shows that drowsy drivers injure more than 71,000 per year, and kill 1,550 people.
These numbers may represent only a fraction of the real story, however. These are only the reports that police definitively list fatigue as a factor in the crash. Other organizations collecting similar statistics list much higher numbers of drowsy driving crashes.
In fact, a Governors Highway Safety Association report estimated that fatigued drivers killed 5,000 people in 2015. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety did a study showing there are more like 328,000 drowsy driving crashes each year, injuring 109,000 and causing 6,400 deaths. AAA research suggests that the United States’ driver fatigue problem is 350% greater than reported.
The Danger of Drowsy Driving
According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers in the country report having driven while sleepy in the last year. 37 percent of those admit they have fallen asleep behind the wheel, and 13 percent admit this happens about once a month!
Occasionally, drivers might not realize how fatigued they are. But even a 4- or 5-second lapse in conscious attention, at highway speed, means the vehicle can travel the length of a football field without the driver’s awareness.
If this happens to a person once a month, there is no excuse for not taking action to prevent it.
Like driving under the influence, driving after 20 hours without sleep has the same effect on the human body as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the legal definition of “under the influence” across the U.S. Driving while fatigued reduces a drivers’ reaction time, attention span, and ability to recognize and react to a change on the road. It affects drivers’ abilities to make good decisions and makes them three times more likely to have a car accident.
America’s Drowsiest Drivers
Those who drive drowsy most often are people who do not get enough sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35 percent of American adults fall into that category. There are groups that are more likely to fall within that 35 percent.
Drivers under age 25 are responsible for an estimated 50% or more of drowsy driving crashes. One reason for this is that college students statistically sleep less than average – often less than six hours a night. College-age males are more likely than females of the same age to drive drowsy.
Commercial truck drivers who operate the largest and heaviest vehicles on the road, including tractor-trailers, tow trucks, and buses. When these vehicles are involved in accidents, they commonly cause severe injuries and deaths.
Unfortunately, the commercial trucking industry is known for drivers logging dangerously long hours. USA Today found Port of Los Angeles truck drivers were often required to work shifts 20-hours or longer, six days a week.
This is clearly against current federal regulations. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), commercial truck drivers must be offered the following accommodations to ensure they are not driving while fatigued.
- They may only work up to 60 hours per seven days, or 70 hours per eight days.
- After 11 total driving hours, or 14 hours on-duty, they must take at least a 10-hour break
- They must take at least one 30-minute break every eight hours of being on-duty or driving.
If your employer is enforcing the above regulations, they are breaking federal law and placing everyone on the road at risk. Report it to the U.S. Department of Transportation: it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you. If you are threatened with any such retaliation, the FMCSA would like to hear about it.
Other groups who are vulnerable to fatigue while driving are:
- People who work long shifts, especially night shifts
- Drivers with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Individuals taking prescription medications that make them sleepy
Preventing Drowsy Driving
There are things we can do to prevent injury and death caused by drowsy driving.
- First, avoid driving drowsy yourself by getting more sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine tells us that all adults require at least seven hours of sleep every night for healthy functioning.
- If you are a college student or a parent of a college student, recognize that this is a particularly vulnerable time for fatigued driving. Have a parent-teen discussion and complete a safe driving agreement. If you’re a student, have the discussion with your peers, and support each other in avoiding driving while drowsy or under the influence.
- Invest in a car with new crash avoidance technology, such as drowsiness alert and lane departure warnings.
- Read your medication labels carefully. Warnings about side effects warnings are not always clear.
- If you are an employer of night-shift workers or commercial drivers, initiate a safety and health program that includes the signs of drowsy driving and the importance of getting enough sleep to avoid it. Offer support for not driving drowsy, such as a “quiet room” with cots, pillows, and blankets, where employees can catch a quick nap before getting on the road.
- If you know of a company that is in violation of regulations to prevent commercial drivers from driving drowsy, report them.
Signs of Drowsiness
These are some clear signs of sleepiness:
- Frequent yawning and/or blinking, or trouble keeping your eyes openHaving problems keeping your head up, i.e., “nodding off”
- Inability to remember the last few miles you drove
- Missing exits, turns or road signs
- Difficulty maintaining your speed
- Drifting out of your lane
- Hitting Botts’ dots or a rumble strip.
Drowsy Driving Accident Attorneys
Have you been injured by a fatigued driver? Has a loved one been killed by a driver who was asleep at the wheel? You deserve compensation for your losses and damages.
Contact the experienced accident attorneys at TorkLaw today. We can help you recover financially, so you can focus on your physical and emotional needs. Call today: 888.845.9696.