Driving under the influence of alcohol is a well-known cause of serious injuries and fatalities. However, driving without adequate sleep is a lesser known cause of similar tragic accidents. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that going 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent.
Drowsy driving is dangerous, but unfortunately, it is very common. A 2005 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of adult drivers in the United States have driven a vehicle despite feeling tired. While it is impossible to predict exactly when a fatigued driving accident will occur, there are some factors that are correlated with an increased risk:
- Time of Day – The body’s internal clock, also known as a circadian rhythm, balances our energy by causing us to feel more alert or less alert at certain hours of the day. Drowsy driving accidents are most likely to occur around noon and between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. due to a decrease in energy levels. Shift workers are more likely to be involved in fatigued driving accidents, because they are working against their natural circadian rhythms.
- Age of the Driver – Younger drivers are the most likely to be involved in drowsy driving related collisions. According to former CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, more teenagers die from car accidents than suicide, homicide, and cancer combined. Teenagers are at a greater risk than older adults because they are more active at night and less likely to be well-rested. Adults under 30 also have high rates of fatigued driving. In a 2002 study by the National Sleep Foundation, 71 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds said that they had driven while drowsy, compared to 52 percent of 36 to 64-year-olds and 19 percent of those 65 years and older.
- Drug Interactions – Many prescription medications are labeled with a warning that the medications can cause drowsiness. Drivers make the road a more dangerous place for others when they ignore these warnings. When a driver is drowsy and on medication, their fatigue and impairment are increased, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Currently, drowsy driving is less clear cut than other driving offenses. There is no standardized test to measure tiredness in the way a breathalyzer measures intoxication, and the lack of uniform national guidelines about drowsy driving makes it challenging to prosecute. Drivers must make their own judgments about their level of fatigue.
There is also a lack of education about fatigued driving. In a 1999 poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of US parents surveyed had not had talked about drowsy driving with their children. Later, the 2002 Sleep in America poll found that 96 percent of parents agreed with the idea that a driver’s license test should inform drivers about fatigued driving. Until the public becomes more aware of the severity of this issue and knows how much sleep a driver truly needs, drowsy driving accidents will continue to occur.
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If you have been injured in a collision and suspect that the driver may have been drowsy while at the wheel, the skilled personal injury attorneys at Martinez & Schill, LLP can help you seek compensation for your damages. Contact our San Diego car accident attorneys today at [[phoneSan]] to schedule a free consultation.