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How Drowsy Driving Can Be as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

Despite the unfortunate fact that people are arrested for drunk driving every day, everyone understands the practice is extremely dangerous. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver every day—that’s one death every 50 minutes.

However, what many people don’t realize is that drowsy driving can be just as hazardous, if not more so.

Drowsy driving is estimated to be a leading factor of fatal crashes; however, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many fatal crashes are caused by sleepiness. Why? Because even though crash investigators know how to look for clues that fatigue contributed to a crash, ultimately it is impossible to determine such evidence is conclusive if the sleepy motorist was killed. Only if the drowsy driver lives and reports their sleepiness to the police can the cause of a collision be officially reported as fatigue.

What we do know is that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These crashes led to approximately 50,000 injuries and 795 deaths.

A study from the American Automobile Association (AAA) states drivers who don’t get seven hours of sleep prior to getting behind the wheel exponentially increase their risk of a crash. Missing only one to two hours of sleep doubles a driver’s crash risk while missing two to three hours increases the risk of an accident by 400%.

Scientists have studied the sleep cycle of humans and have concluded adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Without this, people tend to drive as if they were under the influence of alcohol. AAA studies have shown getting less than five hours of sleep is equivalent to driving drunk. Another study from UCLA demonstrated a single beer can affect someone who slept only four hours the same way six beers might affect a well-rested person.

Tired drivers are slower to react, are more likely to be distracted, and are prone to dangerous decisions. Likewise, more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related accidents experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.

Sleep deprivation is also a massive problem among U.S. workers, particularly for those who work night shifts. A survey conducted by the CDC found that 35% of adults usually sleep for less than seven hours daily and 12% report sleeping for five hours or less.

Some pointers to help you avoid driving while sleepy include:

  • Drowsy driving crashes occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. and in the late afternoon. (These are the times of day when people experience dips in their internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm.) Be extra vigilant when driving during these times.
  • Drowsy driving accidents frequently occur on rural roads and highways. This is primarily because these drives are particularly monotonous, which produces an almost hypnotizing effect that can put motorists to sleep.
  • Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is the best way to protect yourself against the risks of fatigued driving. If you feel yourself nodding off, pull over and stretch your legs or even take a short nap. Better to arrive at your destination later than expected than to suffer injuries from falling asleep at the wheel.
  • If you’re on medication, make sure one of the side effects isn’t drowsiness.

If you’ve been harmed by a fatigued or drowsy driver, don’t hesitate to talk to one of our Tulsa auto accident attorneys. Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC is dedicated to helping the victims of personal injury seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Over the course of our history, we have recovered more than $500 million in verdicts and settlements for our past clients. Let us see what we can do for you.

Contact us to schedule a free case consultation today.

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