The True Dangers of Falling Asleep While Driving

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, crashes involving a drowsy driver are nearly eight times higher than estimates provided by the federal government. Drivers rarely admit to being drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel before an accident. Therefore, drowsy driving accidents are likely grossly underreported. Researchers in one study found that 8.8 to 9.5 percent of all crashes studied involved drowsiness.

Falling asleep while driving puts drivers at an increased risk of a car accident. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous. 

How Much Sleep Does a Driver Need to Operate Their Vehicle Safely?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults. Teens should sleep between eight to ten hours each night. 

Research by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that missing just one to two hours of sleep in a 24-hour period can almost double your chance of being in a car crash. In addition, drivers who lose two to three hours of sleep quadruple their risk of being in a motor vehicle accident.

According to the Center for Disease Control, being awake for at least 18 hours has the same effect as a BAC of .05%. If you are awake for at least 24 hours, it is the same as having a BAC of .10%.

Therefore, losing even a little sleep could put you at a higher risk for drowsy driving. If you routinely sleep less than seven to nine hours, you increase your risk of being in a car crash while driving.

Who is at Risk of Being Involved in a Drowsy Driving Accident?

Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while sleepy or fatigued is at risk of causing a car crash. However, some people have an increased risk of drowsy driving because of their lifestyles or medical conditions.

Individuals who are likely to be sleep-deficient include:

  • Shift workers
  • Individuals who work multiple jobs
  • People who work night shifts
  • Individuals who have undiagnosed and/or untreated sleep disorders
  • Commercial truck drivers and long-distance bus drivers
  • Teenagers who go to school full-time and have a job or participate in one or more sports or extracurricular activities 

Individuals who take medications with a side-effect of drowsiness are also at a higher risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident. 

Drowsy Driving Causes Serious Injuries and Death

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drowsy driving crashes resulted in 697 deaths in the United States during 2019. However, the National Sleep Foundation claims that more than 6,400 people die each year in drowsy driving crashes. 

Drowsy driving accidents can also result in multiple injuries and debilitating impairments. Common injuries caused by drowsy driving crashes include:

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Lacerations and puncture wounds
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Severe burns and disfigurement
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Whiplash and shoulder injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries 
  • Paralysis and amputations 

The consequences of a drowsy driving accident can be devastating. A person might sustain extensive damages due to a drowsy driving car accident, including lost wages, medical bills, and personal care expenses. Victims may also suffer non-economic damages, such as physical pain and suffering,  mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.

Permanent impairments and disabilities could affect an accident victim’s quality of life. The person may also face a lifetime of medical bills, personal care, and loss of income. 

If a drowsy driver caused your car accident, you could be entitled to substantial compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. However, it might not be in your best interest to settle an accident claim without consulting a personal injury lawyer, especially if you are unsure what steps to take after a car accident

An attorney can explain the types of damages you are entitled to receive, your legal rights, and the value of your car accident claim. You could give up your right to pursue legal action if you sign a settlement agreement without legal advice.

Ways You Can Avoid a Drowsy Driving Accident

Both the CDC and the National Sleep Foundation provide tips for preventing drowsy driving accidents. The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get enough sleep. If you have a sleep disorder or a sleep problem, seek medical treatment.

Being proactive, learning the warning signs of drowsy driving, and avoiding driving when you are fatigued can save your life and the lives of others on the road.