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How prevalent is drowsy driving and what are the dangers?

Sleep is an essential part of our lives. A good night’s sleep is crucial to one’s health, enabling the body to recover from the previous day’s activities and stress, and allows you to wake up refreshed and ready to take on a new day.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is all too common. The CDC reports that more than one-third of adults are not getting the sleep they need in order to function properly. The lack of adequate rest can have far-reaching consequences for not only one’s health, but for one’s safety and the safety of others as well.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 50% of American adult drivers admit to having driven while drowsy. Frighteningly, 20% of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in 2021, with more than 50% admitting this had happened at least once in their driving careers.

Sleep-deprived driving statistics and its danger

The problem with drowsy drivers is that they do not realize how much they put themselves and others at risk. Such driving is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents.

  • Drowsy driving accounts for about 100,000 crashes annually on the roadway, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities per year (NSC).
  • Drowsy driving contributes to an estimated 9.5% of all crashes, and 10.8% of those that involved airbag deployment (AAA).
  • Drowsy driving mimics alcohol-impaired driving – 18 hours without sleep is similar to a blood alcohol content of .05% (CDC).
  • About 27% of drivers report driving while being so tired they have difficulty keeping their eyes open (AAA).
  • 1 in 25 drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel (CDC).
  • 47% of those who have nodded off while driving did so on a trip lasting one hour or less (NHTSA).
  • Most crashes or near accidents occur between 4-6 p.m., midnight to 2 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Adults between the ages of 18-29 are more likely to drive while drowsy (71%).

The effects of drowsy driving

There are a lot of reasons why a person might be a fatigued driver. They could be stressed, taking medications that make them sleepy, be intoxicated, or have an untreated sleep disorder. Late-night or third shift workers have been found to be particularly affected by the natural release of melatonin (a sleep hormone) associated with nighttime hours, as they return home after a long shift.

The main effects of drowsy driving are the inability to focus, delayed reaction times, poor judgment, inability to judge distances and speeds, and falling asleep at the wheel.

Studies also show that drowsy drivers brake less which severely hampers their ability to avoid accidents.

Know the warning signs of drowsy driving

There are some very specific warning signs of drowsy driving, which if heeded, can keep you and others safe on the road. Of course, you need to avoid drinking any alcohol or taking medications that could affect your level of alertness.

  • Heavy eyelids or frequent blinking
  • Yawning
  • Daydreaming and trouble focusing
  • Poor recall of the last few miles
  • Drifting back and forth between lanes
  • Hitting rumble strips
  • Drooping head
  • Tailgating
  • Missing signs or exits
  • Restlessness, irritability, and aggressiveness

If you experience any of the above, find a safe place to pull over, like a rest stop or well-lit parking lot, and take a 10-20 minute power nap. This can provide immediate improvement in your ability to remain alert.

Please, be safe out there.

If you have any questions about this article or any other questions related to personal injury law, please call us toll free at 1-800-LAW-1333. Our personal injury consultations are always free.

If you are ever the victim of someone else’s negligence or carelessness and are injured in any kind of accident, please give us a call.

The content of this blog was prepared by Alexander & Associates Attorneys at Law for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Alexander & Associates Attorneys at Law. Client relationships can only be created by written contract.

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