Did you know that missing a few hours of sleep can have a similar impact on drivers as being alcohol-impaired? It's true, and unfortunately, it's very common for people to get behind the wheel after not getting an adequate amount of sleep.
There are about 91,000 crashes caused by drowsy driving each year across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An average of 800 people are killed and 50,000 injured each year as a result. That's just a federal estimate because nobody truly knows how many drowsy driving crashes happen each year for these two reasons:
- There is often no physical or traceable evidence. In most cases, the at-fault driver admits to falling asleep behind the wheel.
- Police don't have the training or tools to determine if someone was drowsy at the time of a crash.
A 2018 AAA study, however, may hold the answer. The study determined the real drowsy driving crash rate to be around 10 percent of all crashes — contrary to the 1-2 percent rate determined by federal statistics. During the study, drowsy driving was identified as a factor through video footage that captured driver eye closure moments before a crash.
Drowsy driving risk factors
Anyone who misses a few hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel is at risk of dozing off, but certain people are more likely to drive drowsy than others. These include:
- People under age 25: The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that drivers under age 25 are involved in roughly 50 percent of crashes caused by drowsy driving.
- People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders: Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and narcolepsy are all common sleep disorders that can put drivers at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. If untreated, these conditions can contribute to a drowsy driving crash.
- Shift workers: About 15 percent of workers in the United States work overnight or rotating shifts. These workers are often at risk of drowsy driving since overnight or odd shifts can disrupt the body's biological clock (circadian rhythm) that programs when we're awake and when we sleep.
- Commercial truck drivers: Large commercial vehicles that weigh up to 80,000 already pose a risk to all road users, but long hours on the road with inadequate sleep can result in a catastrophe.
- Business travelers: Some people who travel for business cross different time zones. This can cause jet lag, especially when traveling overseas.
Get a car accident attorney on your side
With more people juggling tight schedules, sleep is often not made a priority. Drivers still have a responsibility to stay awake and attentive behind the wheel, even if it requires pulling over and taking a nap.
When their negligence results in someone else's injury or death, they should be held accountable. In the event you or a loved one is injured in a crash, get an experienced Louisville car accident attorney on your side. Contact the Whaley Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation.