We all know that feeling: you’re driving home from a busy day at work, and your eyelids start to feel heavy. It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with drowsy driving, especially if they’re tired from a long day. However, this can be extremely dangerous.
When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to focus and pay attention decreases significantly. This means that you’re more likely to make mistakes while driving, which could lead to an accident.
What the Statistics Say About Drowsy Driving
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, not getting at least 7 hours of sleep can nearly double your risk of getting into a car accident. Drowsy drivers are involved in more than 20% of fatal crashes each year. Someone who has slept between 6 to 7 hours is 1.3 times more likely to crash than someone who slept at least 7 hours and those who get between 4 to 5 hours of sleep are 4.3 times more likely to crash.
Most alarmingly, even though around 97% of people recognize that drowsy driving is dangerous almost 1/3 of drivers admit that they do it anyway. Drowsy driving is even one of the leading causes of commercial truck accidents in South Carolina.
If you find yourself feeling tired while driving, it’s important to pull over and take a break. Get some fresh air, walk around, and drink some caffeine if you need to. If possible, it’s also a good idea to avoid driving late at night or early in the morning when your natural energy levels are low.
Comparing Drowsy Driving to Drunk Driving
When you’re drunk, your judgment and reaction time are impaired. This can obviously lead to dangerous situations on the road. However, being drunk and being sleepy have a lot in common when it comes to driving.
Both drunk driving and drowsy driving reduce your ability to pay attention to the road. They both slow down your reaction time and make it harder to make good decisions. In fact, being awake for 17 hours has a similar effect on your body as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. This is below the legal limit for driving in most states, but it’s still enough to impair your ability to drive.
Steps to Take if You Are an Accident With a Drowsy Driver
Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time, so it's important to be aware of your surroundings and make good decisions before getting behind the wheel. If you do have the misfortune of being involved in an accident with a drowsy driver, there are a few things you should do to protect your legal right to compensation:
- Call the police and make a report. This will create an official record of the accident.
- Get the other driver’s insurance information.
- Get contact details for any witnesses.
- Take pictures of the accident scene, including any damage to your car. Get pictures from as many different angles as possible.
- See a doctor as soon as possible, even if you don’t think you’re injured. Some injuries, like whiplash, can take days or weeks to show up.
Once you've reported your accident and addressed your immediate medical needs, you'll want to contact a personal injury lawyer who has experience with drowsy driving accidents. Your lawyer will investigate the accident and look for evidence to establish fault. For example:
- The other driver admitted to being tired or falling asleep at the wheel.
- There were witnesses who saw the other driver nodding off or driving erratically before the accident.
- The other driver has a history of drowsy driving accidents or traffic violations.
- The accident happened late at night or early in the morning.
- You have dashcam footage of the other driver swerving or driving erratically.