Drowsy Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving? The answer may surprise you

Have you ever had trouble keeping your eyes open while driving? Found you were nodding off behind the wheel? Don’t remember how you got somewhere while driving? All of these are examples of drowsy driving. We’re all well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, and texting and driving, but how often do you think about the dangers of drowsy driving?

Driving fatigued, tired, sleepy, or drowsy is a serious safety issue on U. S. roadways. A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded drowsy driving could be just as dangerous as drunk or distracted driving. Drowsy driving accounts for 20% of all fatal accidents in the United States annually. That’s one in five fatal accidents caused by drowsy driving!

These eye-opening statistics from the AAA study support that deadly finding: If you get behind the wheel with only 5 or 6 hours of sleep, you double your risk of being in a crash. Your crash risk quadruples with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night versus someone who regularly logs 7 hours or more of shut-eye, similar to the increased crash risk when drinking and driving. And with less than sleep less than 4 hours a night, you are almost 12 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) now includes “drowsy driving” in its definition of impaired driving, which also includes drunk, drugged, and distracted driving. But unlike drunk, drugged, or distracted driving, the true scope of the drowsy driving problem is unknown since there are no road tests similar to a field sobriety test, nor way to check technology devices, to determine if drowsy driving contributed to a crash.

Experts estimate 84 million drowsy drivers get behind the wheel each day, and 1 in 3 drivers admit having a hard time keeping their eyes open while operating a motor vehicle. Some groups are more susceptible than others to drowsy driving. Teens, people who work third shift, or who work long or irregular work hours are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash. There are also 40 million Americans who suffer from some sort of sleep disorder whose risk is also increased for a drowsy driving crash.

Be Aware of the Signs of Drowsy Driving

Awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving is one of the first steps to combating the problem. If you’re driving, pay attention to the warning signs that you’re too sleepy to be behind the wheel and pull over:

  • If you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open,
  • Difficulty staying in your lane, or
  • Don’t remember the last few minutes of driving on the road

Passengers can also help. Make sure your driver is awake and alert, or offer to drive if you’re unsure of the driver’s ability to stay awake and drive safely.

AAA Recommends these Safety Tips to Avoid the Dangers of Drowsy Driving:

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal before driving which can induce sleepiness
  • If you’re driving long distances, take a break every 2 hours or 100 miles
  • If you have passengers who can drive, take turns driving
  • Check any medications you are taking for warnings against driving or operating heavy machinery because the medication may cause drowsiness

We hope that by following these safety tips, and increasing your awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving, you avoid being injured in a crash with a drowsy driver but the experienced car accident attorneys of Bubalo Law, PLC are here to help if you’re ever involved in a drowsy driving crash.