Far too many drivers are getting behind the wheel while overly tired and sleepy. While we may be used to functioning while a little tired, drivers rarely recognize the extent of the dangers of drowsy driving. In some cases, it can be as bad as drinking and driving and lead to serious collisions.
Drowsy driving contributes to thousands of car accidents each year. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported there were 91,000 motor vehicle crashes involving drowsy driving in 2017. Drowsy driving led to 795 deaths that year, and 4,111 deaths in between 2013 and 2017.
What Is Drowsy Driving and Why Does it Happen?
Drowsy driving is the common term for driving while sleepy or fatigued, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of the time, this arises because the driver has not gotten enough sleep, either in the previous 24 hours or over an extended period of time. Undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders can lead drivers to lose out on hours of sleep for weeks or months at a time.
However, sleepiness can also arise because of drinking alcohol and taking certain medications. Even without being over the legal limit, a drink or two can make a driver overly tired. Also, certain prescription and over-the-counter medications specifically warn they can make the user drowsy.
Shift work is also a factor. A driver may work a12-hour shift or rotate between working days and nights. Many shift workers work several days in a row before getting one day off. It can be a strenuous schedule and difficult to maintain an adequate sleep pattern.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is more than being tired. It is being so tired that your ability to function and safely operate a vehicle is affected
Signs that a driver is drowsy and should stop driving include:
- Yawning frequently
- Blinking more frequently than usual
- Eyelids feeling heavy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drifting into another lane of traffic
- Hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road
- Missing an exit
- Missing a stop sign
- Not remembering the last section of road or how a certain destination was reached
Going too long without sleep or trying to rely on caffeine to stay awake can cause drivers to have “microsleep,” which are seconds of losing consciousness, according to the NHTSA.
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Driving was sleepy or fatigued has many consequences, including:
- Drivers are less able to pay attention to the road and traffic and notice approaching hazards.
- Drivers have slower reaction times, which impact their steering and braking.
- Drivers’ ability to make good decisions behind the wheel is compromised.
- Drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel.
Drowsy driving can have effects similar to drunk driving. Once an individual has been awake for 18 hours straight, they behave similarly to a person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. Once a person has been awake for a full 24 hours, it is akin to having a BAC of 0.10%, which is the legal limit.
Were You in a Seattle Drowsy Driving Accident?
If you were injured in an auto accident and believe the other driver’s drowsiness was to blame, talk with a Seattle personal injury lawyer. We will investigate the circumstances of the crash and work to determine whether the other driver was at fault for driving while drowsy. This is often the reason why the other driver was drifted into your lane, ran a stop sign or red light, or failed to stop in time to avoid rear-ending you.
There may also direct evidence of fatigued driving in the police report. Sometimes the officer will note signs that the driver was tired such as red or blurry eyes, or statements that the driver made such as “I was really tired” or “I think I spaced out.” We can also interview witnesses and depose the driver and any passengers under oath if a lawsuit is filed. Witnesses will often notice signs of fatigue in the at-fault driver, and he or she will have to disclose how much sleep they had gotten the day of the crash or the night before. We also can ask about their sleep schedule, their work schedule, whether they had been drinking, or any medications they were taking at the time.
Call a Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer For Help
After being injured in a crash that you believe was caused by a driver falling asleep behind the wheel or being overly tired, call Menzer Law at (206) 903-1818 to schedule a consultation.