Back to basics: drowsy driving poses a real threat

With all the emphasis in recent years on reducing traffic accidents caused by things like intoxication or distracted driving, it can be easy to overlook the more basic safety concerns like drowsy driving. As relatively innocuous as it may sound in comparison to other dangerous driving behaviors, fatigued driving is in fact a serious safety issue with consequences that are all too often tragic.

Drowsy driving statistics

A recent survey by the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation revealed that only 46 percent of respondents said they view drowsy driving as a serious threat. This number has dropped significantly since an earlier version of the survey was conducted in 2009, when 71 percent said they considered it a serious threat. It is not clear why drivers' attitudes toward fatigued driving appear to have shifted so significantly over a period of just a few years.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Although drowsy driving does not carry the same degree of negative social stigma as drunk driving or other high-profile risky behaviors, the potential for devastating harm is very real. In fact, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep-deprived drivers are three times more likely than average to be involved in a traffic accident.

Because there is no hard-and-fast rule for determining whether a driver is adequately rested, it is difficult to know just how widespread the problem of drowsy driving really is. Estimates on the matter vary dramatically, but a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of U.S. drivers say they have driven while drowsy in the past year - and 37 percent say they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.

Drowsy driving risk factors

Certain factors can increase the risk that someone will become drowsy or fall asleep while driving. For example, according to NSF data:

  • Young adults are much more likely than other age groups to drive while drowsy.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to fall asleep at the wheel, and are more likely to drive while drowsy in general.
  • People with children are more likely to drive while drowsy than those without children.

A report by AAA found that the risk of accidents increases with the degree of sleep deprivation, meaning that the dangers continue to increase the less someone sleeps. For example, when compared to drivers who get eight hours of sleep per night, those who sleep for six to seven hours are twice as likely to be involved in a crash, while those who sleep for less than five hours are as much as five times likelier to crash.

Compensation may be available for crash victims

If you or a family member has been hurt in an accident with a driver who was drowsy or fell asleep at the wheel, you have a right to seek monetary compensation for your injuries and related expenses, including medical care and lost wages. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your situation and learn more about your legal options.