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What You Need to Know About Drowsy Driving Accidents

posted Jan 3, 2018, 3:23 PM by Lane Siekman   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 3:25 PM ]

Drowsy driving has become a major contributor to car crashes across the U.S. According to a study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving resulted in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013 alone. These fatality and injury rates are consistent across several major studies. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, for example, estimates an astonishing 328,000 car crashes per year, resulting in over 6,000 deaths attributable to drowsy driving.

Legal Enforcement Proves Difficult

A few states, like Arkansas and New Jersey, have laws on the books that makes causing a vehicular death due to drowsy driving a felony. New York has recently introduced similar legislation to confront the issue. These laws have seen limited success in reducing accidents.

The problem with drowsy driving, however, is that it is difficult to prove in court. No tests exist that can determine whether someone has had enough sleep or whether an accident is directly the cause of an accident. Often, the only way to determine the facts in a drowsy driving case is if the responsible driver admits to it.

Warning Signs for Drowsy Drivers

For now, public awareness campaigns seem to be the best tactic to reduce accidents by fatigued drivers. Warning signs are being incorporated into driver education programs that encourage drivers to be aware of:

  • Frequent yawning and blinking while driving

  • “Zoning out” on the road and not remembering the last few miles

  • Struggling to keep the eyes open or even nodding off

  • Driving erratically, such as lane drifting or hitting rumble strips

Drowsy driving reduces attention and reaction time on the road. If a driver senses difficulty staying awake, they should pull off the road and nap or ask a passenger to take the wheel for a while. Even 15 to 20 minutes of rest can be helpful for a weary driver.

Public Awareness Is Key to Preventing Drowsy Driving

The National Highway Safety Administration has been developing an action plan to address drowsy driving. In particular, they are encouraging police officers in training to identify potential drowsy driving, as well as advising driver and passenger interview questions that can potentially help determine fatigued driving.

When this information is entered into police reports, it becomes critical evidence for a car accident law firm prosecuting drowsy driving cases that resulted in injuries and deaths.

Drivers are also being educated to underlying factors that can lead to drowsy driving. Poor sleeping habits are a major contributor. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults sleep at least 7 hours per night and teenagers at least 8 hours. Commercial drivers, people with sleep disorders, night shift workers, and those on medication should be particularly aware of their level of wakefulness.

Driver safety advocates hope that better public awareness, enhanced police training, and new car technologies that warn of erratic driving will reduce the number of accidents due to drowsiness. In the meantime, car crash lawyers should be aware of the facts and statistics they need to gather evidence to hold dangerous drivers responsible.

Article submitted by Rae Steinbach