Driving drowsy can be deadly. Many experts compare drowsy driving to drunk driving since both affect drivers in similar ways. Like a drunk driver, a tired driver can experience slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, and the inability to control the vehicle. Don’t underestimate the dangers of driving drowsy. Truck drivers and other motorists who engage in this unsafe practice can cause serious and fatal traffic accidents. Get the facts on drowsy driving to keep you and your family safe in West Virginia.
At least one in 25 adult drivers reports falling asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistics show that 72,000 accidents, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths stemmed from drowsy driving in one year alone. However, researchers believe these numbers fall woefully short of actual drowsy driving crash statistics, due to the difficulty of assigning this cause to crashes. It is often impossible to ascertain whether a deceased driver had been drowsy or asleep at the time of the wreck.
Commercial truck drivers are especially prone to driving drowsy. Sleep apnea, other sleeping problems, long drives, night shifts, and drug/alcohol use can all contribute to drowsy truck drivers. Thirteen percent (13%) of commercial drivers in a study admitted to fatigue at the time of their accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports. Long shifts and pressure from trucking companies can contribute to the rate of tired driving in the commercial trucking industry.
The Sleep Foundation states that trying to drive after being awake for 18 consecutive hours is similar to driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05%. Driving after staying awake for 24 hours is the equivalent of driving with a BAC of 0.10%s, which is 0.02 higher than the limit at which the state of West Virginia considers a driver drunk. Both drowsy and drunk drivers are unfit to operate motor vehicles, as they pose unreasonable risks of harm to others on the road.
Not only can driving drowsy be the equivalent of driving drunk – studies show it can be more dangerous. Although a drunk driver may be slow to react to changing roadway situations, such as a stopped car, a driver who has fallen asleep won’t react at all. A sleeping driver may not so much as tap the brakes before impact with another vehicle, pedestrian, or object. Drowsy driving, therefore, comes with a higher risk of high-speed collisions than driving drunk. Head-on collisions, high-speed accidents, T-bones, and rollovers are all serious accidents that a drowsy driver could cause.
It’s up to you as a driver to prevent drowsy driving. You’ve taken the first step by educating yourself on the real risks of this bad habit. Now, do your part to protect yourself and those around you by avoiding driving while tired. Know your limits when taking trips, especially if you’ll be on the road for hours at a time. Take frequent breaks to stop and rest. Don’t rely on “shortcuts” such as caffeine, energy drinks, or blasting the radio. The only thing that can resolve drowsy driving is sleep. Pull over someplace safe to rest if you notice any of the following signs of drowsiness:
Get plenty of rest before a long road trip, and plan plenty of time for stops, as necessary. If someone is riding with you, make a no-sleep rule in the front passenger seat. If your passenger must doze off, ask that he or she do so in the backseat. Traveling with talkative companions who can stay away with you can help reduce your risk of causing an accident. If you were a victim in a drowsy driving accident due to another’s negligence, the West Virginia car accident attorneys at Manchin Injury Law Group can help.