Drowsy Driving Facts

According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsiness is a major–and dangerous–epidemic among Americans. Most Americans function on far too little sleep, and often, that sleep deprivation manifests itself in the form of drowsiness while driving which can cause serious accidents on the road.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Drowsy driving causes as many as one in six deadly accidents and one in 18 accidents that result in hospitalization.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drowsy driving causes more than 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries every year. It is mentioned as a factor in more than 100,000 accidents annually.

The National Sleep Foundation says that vehicles, in which a motorist had a passenger, were approximately 50% less likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident. That indicates that having company while you drive could possibly keep drowsiness away.

More than 50% of motorists in a survey reported that they had fallen asleep while at the wheel in the past year. Out of these, more than 50% also reported that they had driven for less than an hour before dozing off.

About 26% of motorists who had dozed off while driving reported that this incident occurred between noon and 5 PM. Men are much more likely to report dozing off at the wheel, with approximately 50% of males reporting such behavior, compared to 30% of females. 

Signs of Drowsy Driving

How can you tell that you’re too drowsy to be driving? Look for physical signs of tiredness, such as heavy eyelids, frequent blinking and yawning or difficulty paying attention to the road or conversation.

Police officers can spot drowsy driving the same way that they can look out for intoxicated drivers. Typically, drowsy drivers will swerve between lanes, follow other cars closely, have a delayed reaction to braking or turning on signals, or drive over speed bumps without slowing down. If you notice any of these behaviors in your driving, pull off of the road and either call a friend to help you get home or find a spot to quietly nap for 20-30 minutes.

How Does Drowsy Driving Cause Accidents?

You don’t have to completely doze off at the wheel to be involved in a drowsy driving accident. Drowsiness can become a factor in an accident even if you do not fall asleep at the wheel. When you are extremely sleepy, there may be moments when you zone out and don’t remember the last few seconds of driving. You might not have dozed off, but your reflexes are extremely impaired.

Drowsiness also results in impaired judgment, making it difficult for you to judge distances between your car and car in front. It can impair your perceptual skills, and make it difficult for you to focus. You may have problems with short-term memory, as well as processing important information. You might find yourself becoming sluggish. All of these factors severely increase a person’s risk of being involved in an accident.

If you are a young male or shift-based worker, or suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, then you may be at a much higher risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident. If sleep deficiencies are making you frequently doze off at the wheel while driving, get help for your sleep issues. Fix your sleep schedule so that you are getting much more sleep at night.

Look into your sleep environment, including the lighting of your bedroom, calmness of the room and other factors to determine why you aren’t getting the sleep you need.

Remember to check the label on any medications that you take to ensure that they do not cause drowsiness. If you must take a medication that does cause drowsiness, plan to take it after you are already home so you don’t have to get behind the wheel.

Do you have a regular sleep schedule? If so, avoid driving during the time that you are usually asleep. Your body becomes used to the routine that you create for it, so if you’re always sleeping at 11 p.m., your body will know to be tired then. Don’t attempt to drive somewhere during your normal sleep hours unless you absolutely must in an emergency situation.

Are you planning on going on a long drive? If so, bring a buddy. Schedule regular driving shifts so that the other person can take a nap and rest up before taking the wheel again. Don’t plan on driving for hours without a break, which can lead to dangerous drowsy driving accidents.

How Can Employers Help Reduce Drowsy Driving?

Several studies have established that employees, who work in shift-based jobs, may be at a much higher risk of excessive sleepiness, and consequently driving while fatigued. Drowsy driving is a much-neglected factor in motor vehicle accidents in Illinois. For help filing a car accident claim, speak to a Denver car accident lawyer.

Employers however can reduce those risks. Eliminating shift-based work is not practical, and therefore, employers need to look at other approaches. Research has indicated that alertness management approaches can be effective in helping reduce fatigue, when a person is driving home. Besides, employers must also account for the fact, that there are differences among individual workers tolerance to night work. Some workers may be much more severely impacted by night work than others. Employers must take these points into consideration, while determining schedules.

Employers should also educate employees about the risks of drowsy driving, when they are working irregular hours, or working during nighttime. Employers can make arrangements for napping for night shift workers in order to help employees maintain their circadian rhythm, and minimize the risk of sleepiness.

Employers can also invest in physical training for employees because this is also believed to help reduce the risk of fatigue among employees.

If you were involved in a drowsy driving accident, speak to a Denver car accident lawyer for help filing a claim. Proving that the other motorist in your accident dozed off at the wheel, and is, therefore, liable is difficult. Schedule an evaluation of your claim with a Denver car accident lawyer, and discuss your claim.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.