How Driving Drowsy Can Be More Dangerous Than Driving Drunk

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Falling asleep behind the wheel has increasingly become a problem amongst overtired, overstressed, and overworked drivers. As people push themselves to work longer hours and multitask, fatigue has infiltrated the roadway. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 845 people died in drowsy driving accidents in one year alone. Statistics often fall short of the actual numbers, since tiredness is a difficult cause to identify. Become part of the solution by learning the real risks of drowsy driving.

The Sleep Problem in America

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, circadian rhythm disorders, snoring, night terrors, sleepwalking, and restless leg syndrome are all disorders that can cause sleep deprivation and constant drowsiness. When sleep-deprived drivers get behind the wheel, the hum of the engine and the monotony of the road can make them fall asleep.

The most likely people to drive drowsy are those who don’t sleep enough, employees who work nights or long shifts, commercial drivers, drivers who use certain medications, and those with sleep disorders. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants or cold medicine, can have drowsiness as a possible side effect. Drivers should avoid operating vehicles after taking these medications. They should also avoid long drives or night trips if they haven’t gotten enough sleep lately.

One CDC survey showed that one in 25 drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel within the last 30 days. Although the NHTSA states that around 800 deaths occur from drowsy driving each year, researchers believe as many as 6,000 fatal accidents could result from drowsy driving annually. It is often impossible to tell during an investigation if a deceased driver had been dozing off or sleeping behind the wheel at the time of the accident, making related statistics largely underreported.

How Does Drowsiness Affect a Driver?

Sleep deprivation has a similar effect to alcohol on a driver. According to the Sleep Foundation, going without sleep for 18 consecutive hours makes a driver as impaired as if he or she had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.05. A drowsy driver will typically lose the ability to detect and react to dangerous roadway situations. Drowsiness dulls the senses, causing things such as heavy eyes and blurred vision. It also reduces reaction time, making the driver sluggish and slow to maneuver away from road hazards. In these ways, it is similar to drunkenness.

Driving drowsy can be even more dangerous than drunk driving, however, because it can sneak up on an unsuspecting driver. Most drivers don’t realize they’re falling asleep until they’ve already driven off the road or crashed into someone or something. Drowsy drivers can doze off while going fast on the highway, dropping into unconsciousness and being unable to hit the brakes or swerve. Drunk drivers, on the other hand, often know they are impaired and may slow down or take other actions in an attempt to avoid an accident.

Furthermore, many drivers don’t understand the dangers of drowsy driving. While every licensed driver knows it’s illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, most don’t think twice about driving while tired. Drowsy driving isn’t a crime, although it is an act of negligence. Lack of education and awareness on the subject of drowsy driving contributes to the high number of related accidents, since many drivers underestimate the risk. There may be more drowsy drivers than drunk drivers on the road at any time.

If a drowsy driver caused your car accident, contact a lawyer. These accidents often occur at high-speeds and involve serious collisions such as head-on impacts. A car accident lawyer can help you maximize your crash compensation.