Driving While Drowsy: A Little-Known Danger

Driving while drowsy is every bit as dangerous as driving drunk although it is rarely acknowledged as such. People don’t often think of the two as equals because drunk driving accidents and fatalities get more press, but it has been well proven by this point that sleep-deprived drivers contribute to multiple serious crashes each year. AAA Michigan’s recent report suggest that about 21 percent of fatal crashes per year are caused by overtired drivers, and the AAA Foundation has found that 37 percent of drivers admit that they have actually fallen asleep while behind the wheel. This second number is particularly disturbing when you consider that it takes just seconds to veer off course and cause an accident. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this type of inattention to the road translates to about 100,000 crashes per year nationwide, all due to lack of sleep.

According to a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, driving while tired or while intoxicated both double the chance of an accident. For this reason, it is imperative that we start treating tired drivers as the risk that they are. This presents particular problems for shift workers, who often have to drive despite being consistently overtired, and for those with sleep disorders like apnea, which prevents sufferers from sleeping well at night due to difficulty breathing while asleep.

Although most states don’t criminalize driving while tired as they do driving drunk, some such laws do exist, and businesses can and do sometimes take it upon themselves to screen their employees for sleep disorders for their own liability and safety as well as the public’s. This is especially important for people such as truckers and emergency personnel, who are more likely than the average person to have to operate a vehicle while exhausted. However, a lot of responsibility rests with the individual to recognize when he or she is too tired to be on the road safely. AAA recommends taking a driving break roughly every two hours on long trips and even napping at a rest stop or in a parking lot if you find you’re too tired to continue. Even a quick nap of only 20 minutes helps to reduce the risk of an accident. Of course, the primary recommendation is that people make sure to get a solid eight hours of sleep each night, which is best for you regardless of whether you drive. Maybe the more aware we become of the dangers of drowsy driving, the more steps we will take to combat it. Hopefully, increased awareness will lead to a decrease in accidents.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in an accident because someone was driving while drowsy, contact Whiting Law for a free consultation.

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