Drowsy Driver YawnsIn a 24/7 world, working, parenting, volunteering and other demands on our time spur many to keep going long hours each day. While we may accomplish a lot, all that “doing” has a downside: About one-third of U.S. adults get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Sleep shortages have multiple documented detrimental effects. They can be particularly dangerous when a sleep-deprived individual gets behind the wheel.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving a drowsy driver, it’s critical that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. A lawyer will begin dealing with insurance companies directly, so you can focus on healing and rebuilding your life.

Experts estimate that sleepy drivers cause from 6,000 to more than 8,000 fatal crashes every year and that drowsy driving traffic crashes represent a cost to society of $109 billion. Drowsy drivers cause at least 7% of all traffic accidents * and 16.5% of fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Researchers recognize the difficulty in determining whether a driver crashed because he or she was impaired by being overtired, so they conclude that fatigued driving-caused crashes likely are vastly underreported.

People overestimate their ability to stay alert while driving despite being tired, mistakenly believing that turning up the radio, drinking some coffee or cranking the AC will keep them sharp. Most fail to realize that sleepy drivers can be as dangerous as drunk drivers. Tired people tend to have slower reaction times and poorer judgment, and are less observant, just like someone who’s intoxicated. Importantly, people may not recognize that they’re nodding off. Those who suddenly jerk their heads up while driving have not just avoided falling asleep – in fact, they’ve actually had a “microsleep,” scientists say. A “microsleep” lasts from a fraction of a second to two minutes. Many times, the person is not aware it happened.

Because our circadian rhythms can cause an almost irresistible urge to sleep at night, that’s when drowsy driving crashes most frequently occur – specifically, between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Another peak time for sleepy drivers is the late afternoon, particularly for older motorists. Not surprisingly, crashes at night are more than three times as likely to involve a drowsy driver as those in the daytime, according to studies by the AAA Foundation.

No one sets out to cause a crash that injures or kills someone by driving while impaired by lack of sleep. Yet, disturbingly, one in three admitted in a 2015 AAA Foundation study that in the past 30 days they’d driven when they were so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. A Harvard Medical School study found a quarter of a million drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day. Such behavior can have tragic consequences, resulting not only in thousands of deaths but also in 80,000 serious injuries per year, NHTSA states.

Drowsy Driving Prevention

If you realize during a road trip that you’re getting tired, pull over somewhere safe and take a short nap. Take a break and get some exercise, such as a quick walk. Stop somewhere and have one to two cups of coffee or the equivalent and wait 20 minutes for the caffeine to take effect before continuing to drive. However, understand that these are short-term fixes. The only “cure” for tiredness is sleep. A full night of rest means getting 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye.

If a drowsy driver caused a car accident and you were injured, contact us today. Suk Law Firm has recovered more than $125 million for our clients and we are ready to assist you.

Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.

*A note about language:

Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”