Drowsy Driving: Why it Causes So Many Car Accidents

Given the fast pace of life in our country, many people must go to work, take care of their children, and perform their day-to-day activities while in desperate need of sleep. Most people do not even think it is a problem to be tired all the time. When it comes time to pick up the kids from school, drive to a job, or go to the grocery store, many do not think twice about getting behind the wheel and driving. However, drowsy driving causes drivers to make terrible mistakes that cause victims of these crashes to suffer devastating injuries.

Who Is Most at Risk of Driving While Tired?

Unfortunately, the true extent of the problem of drowsy driving is not yet known. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Male Yawning While Driving a Carestimates that drowsy driving accidents caused 846 deaths and 37,000 injuries in 2014, but admits that these figures are most likely well below the true statistics. The NHTSA believes the true number of victims killed in these crashes is close to 5,000 people.

While any driver who is fatigued can cause a crash, certain groups of people are more likely to be on the roads when they are tired—with an increased risk of making a mistake causing a collision. People who are at higher risk include:

  • Teens and young adults. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), drivers who are 25 years old or younger are involved in over half of the drowsy driving crashes each year. When tired, these already less experienced drivers are also more likely to engage in other dangerous driving practices, such as driving when drunk, being a passenger when a drunk driver is driving, texting, and failing to wear a seat belt.

  • Shift and night workers. Employees who work on rotating shifts or at night are more likely to suffer with disruptions of their sleep and lack of sleep in general. Retail workers, manufacturing, bartenders, waitresses, and factory workers are just a few of the professions where workers work these schedules—making it more likely that they will cause a drowsy driving crash.

  • Police, firefighters, and EMS workers. Many police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service providers must work irregular shifts, overtime, and at night. While they are doing so to protect us, this often results in these workers endangering other motorists when they drive—often at a high speed—while they are fatigued.

  • Health care workers. Nurses, doctors, and other health care workers who work at hospitals frequently are too tired due to the long hours they work, their rotating shifts, and their work at night. Medical residents are especially at danger of driving when drowsy given the impossible hours they must work.

  • Truck drivers. Truck drivers are allowed to drive 11 hours a day—and many drive even longer hours, even though they are in violation of federal hours-of-service regulations. Both the long hours they drive and the long periods of time they spend on the road contribute to truck drivers not getting enough sleep, with innocent victims paying the price when truckers cause catastrophic accidents.

  • People with sleep disorders. According to the GHSA, 40 million Americans suffer with sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. When these drivers get behind the wheel after a poor night of sleep, the chances that they will cause a wreck increase dramatically.

Being Drowsy Is Similar to Driving When Drunk

Drivers who consistently do not get enough sleep can engage in driving practices similar to those driving after consuming alcohol. For example, a driver who loses two hours of sleep in just one day can mimic a person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. Driving when drowsy can affect the following abilities:

  • Causes slower reaction times

  • Results in impaired judgment

  • Increases the driver’s level of risk taking

  • Causes the person to blink and close his eyes more frequently

  • Reduces the driver’s cognitive abilities

  • Impairs a person’s memory

  • Makes a driver less attentive

  • Reduces visual awareness

Were you the victim of a drowsy driving accident? Fill out our online form or start an online chat to schedule a free case evaluation to learn more about how to hold the negligent driver responsible for compensating you for your injuries.