How Many Accidents are Caused by Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving is driving while sleepy, fatigued, or a combination of the two. The main cause is not getting an adequate amount of sleep (generally defined as 6 hours or more each night), although there are other contributing factors as well. Driving while drowsy or fatigued is a major problem in the U.S., and it is far more common than most people realize.
A study reported on by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that an estimated one out of every 25 adult drivers (over the age of 18) have fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days. A separate poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of Americans have driven while drowsy, and 37% admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel within the past year.
The precise number of accidents that are caused by drowsy driving is hard to nail down, because the fact that a driver was sleepy or fatigued does not always show up on a police report after an accident. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for roughly 72,000 motor vehicle crashes each year, resulting in tens of thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. However, the CDC says that these numbers vastly underestimate the problem, and that as many as 6,000 fatal car accidents per year may be caused by drowsy driving.
It is important to point out that falling asleep behind the wheel is just one of the potential hazards of driving while drowsy. This is the worst-case scenario, and it can obviously result in disastrous consequences. But even when a motorist does not fall asleep, drowsiness can still negatively impact their driving. For example, drowsy driving:
- Causes drivers to miss important details on the road, such as pedestrians crossing the road and motorcyclists entering their blind spot;
- Causes slower reaction times, making it more difficult to brake or adjust the steering wheel suddenly when adverse conditions arise;
- Causes motorists to make poorer driving decisions.
Who is Most Likely to Drive while Drowsy?
As mentioned previously, anyone who is sleep-deprived runs a higher risk of driving while drowsy. That said, there are some groups that are more susceptible to this behavior:
- Commercial Drivers: Individuals who drive for a living are far more likely than the general population to drive without having enough sleep. This is especially common among drivers of commercial vehicles, such as big rig trucks and buses. It can also happen to delivery drivers, cab drivers, and those who drive for a ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
- Shift Workers: People who work long hours, extended shifts that include overtime, and shifts that run into the evening and overnight hours tend to have more difficulty staying awake while driving home when their shift is over.
- Drivers with Untreated Sleep Disorders: Individuals who have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea run a greater risk of “micro sleep” episodes (i.e., nodding off to sleep for a few minutes at a time). These episodes are relatively harmless if you are at home watching TV, but when they happen while driving, it is a much different story.
- Travelers: Individuals who drive long distances and particularly during overnight hours have a greater tendency to get sleepy while driving. This can also happen to those who fly a lot and frequently change time zones, such as business travelers.
- Intoxicated Drivers: Driving while under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or sleep-inducing medications can cause motorists to become drowsy, increasing the likelihood of falling asleep while driving.
Drowsy Driving and Truck Accidents
Drowsy driving is particularly common in the commercial trucking industry, because drivers often fall into multiple risk categories. Truckers typically put in long hours over-the-road, and many of these hours are during evenings and overnights. It is also estimated that nearly one-third of all truck drivers have sleep apnea.
Trucking companies do not help matters by putting undue pressure on drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines. This often forces truckers to choose between pulling into a truck stop to get the rest they need and violating Hours of Service guidelines to deliver their loads on time. And when a driver stays out on the road longer than they should, it greatly increases the risk of truck accidents with serious injuries.
Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident in Florida? Contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for Assistance
If you or someone close to has been injured at the hands of a drowsy or fatigued driver, you may be entitled to to compensation. Before you talk with the insurance adjuster or anyone else from the responsible driver’s insurance company, speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer, so your case can be fully assessed, and you can be advised of your legal rights and options.
If the accident occurred in Pensacola or any of the surrounding communities, Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett is here to help. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!