Drunk drivers and distracted drivers are regularly in the news, but there’s another form of impairment that causes a number of accidents statewide: drowsiness. Our West Virginia personal injury lawyers have some facts, statistics, and safety tips related to the problem of the drowsy driver.
Drowsy drivers: Facts and statistics
- In a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, about 60% of adult drivers (or approximately 168 million people) admitted to getting behind the wheel while feeling drowsy within the past year. In addition, nearly 40% of those drivers (approximately 11 million people) said they had actually dozed off while driving.
- Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that drowsy drivers contribute to at least 100,000 police-reported crashes every year. These accidents result in approximately 1,550 deaths; 71,000 injuries; and $12.5 billion in costs.
- When you’ve been awake for about 18 hours, your cognitive impairment is similar to a driver with a 0.05% blood alcohol content, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After you’ve been up for 24 hours, your impairment is similar to a driver with a 0.10% BAC.
Drowsy driving: Who’s at risk?
- Younger drivers, particularly males under age 26
- Employees who work long hours or night shifts (notably, night shift workers have a crash risk six times higher than the average driver; drivers who work more than 60 hours a week have a 40% greater risk)
- Commercial drivers (fatigue is a factor in at least 15% of all heavy truck accidents)
- Drivers with undiagnosed/untreated sleep disorders
- Business travelers (drivers who spend many hours behind the wheel, or who may be jet-lagged)
Warning signs: Are you driving while drowsy?
- Are you yawning or blinking excessively?
- Are you struggling with wandering or disconnected thoughts?
- Do you have trouble remembering the last few miles you’ve driven?
- Have you drifted out of your lane or been jerked awake by a rumble strip?
- Have you missed exits, turns or traffic signals?
Avoiding drowsy driving: Trips for safe travel
- If you plan to travel long distances, be sure you get plenty of sleep (at least six hours) before you hit the road. Never plan to work all day and drive all night.
- Travel during times of day when you are normally awake – and plan to stay overnight when necessary.
- Take breaks from driving as you need them (about every two hours or every 100 miles).
- Travel with a companion who plans to stay awake with you.
- If you start feeling drowsy, pull over. It might take you extra time to arrive at your destination, but it might also save your life – or someone else’s.