It’s Time We Wake Up to the Risks
You wouldn’t drive after drinking too much, but would you drive after sleeping too little?
For far too many responsible people, the answer is a surprising “yes.”
Getting enough sleep can be a serious challenge. In our fast paced world, many people are perpetually sleep-deprived and yet still have to get to work, pick up their children from school and handle daily tasks.
Sleep is often the first to go when trying to meet life’s demands.
In fact, a National Sleep Foundation survey found that almost one-third of people are perpetually tired. Only about 30 percent regularly slept more than seven hours a night.
How Dangerous is Drowsy Driving?
We all know that driving while intoxicated is dangerous. But tired driving causes 1.2 million auto accidents and 8,000 deaths each year.
This is simply not acceptable.
The effects of sleepiness are strikingly similar to intoxication and just as dangerous. Sleep deprivation takes its toll on the body and causes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired motor skills
- Memory loss
- Lowered stress threshold
- And of course, falling asleep
Who is Most Likely to Drive While Sleep Deprived?
I review a lot of car accidents as a personal injury lawyer. When I see one of these defendant drivers, I immediately consider whether he or she should not have been driving due to sleep deprivation:
- Teenagers and younger drivers
- Night shift workers and those working overtime
- Truck drivers
- Drivers suffering from a sleep disorder
- Drivers taking sedating medications
I look for suspicious driving patterns, like drifting across lanes or failing to apply brakes in time to avoid the crash. I also delve into the activities of the driver prior to the crash to show that lack of sleep was a factor. These might include a long drive, a double work shift or a final exam.
I recently took the deposition of a worker who had left his home at 3:00 o’clock a.m. and began working at 4:00 a.m. before causing a deadly crash on an interstate soon after that. He even refused to answer my question about what time he had gone to bed the night before and invoked the 5th Amendment! He was also tested positive for cocaine and had been drinking alcohol the night before, by the way. I can’t wait for a jury to hear his testimony and decide whether he should have been driving an enormous construction tractor across an interstate highway without barely a warning to oncoming drivers.
You will remember the tragic case last year when comedian Tracy Morgan’s vehicle was crashed into by a WalMart driver who had already been driving for 24 hours in an 18 wheeler.
Drowsy driving comes with several types of common behavior. Drowsy drivers may become aggressive, miss an exit or make a wrong turn. Some drivers try to stay awake by opening the car windows or turning on loud music, but these methods are generally ineffective at suppressing the urge to sleep.
Consequences of Driving Drowsy
A lack of sleep impairs judgement, so drowsy drivers are at a high risk for causing car accidents. A lack of concentration and focus can cause a serious wreck, resulting in personal injury or injury to others. The NSF believes that drowsy driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving because if a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they have no ability to avoid an accident.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Not all traffic accidents can be avoided, but car accidents caused by a fatigued driver are often completely preventable. In addition to the obvious suggestion to get more sleep and not take certain prescription medicines, on long trips, drivers should be with someone else who can help out driving and take regular breaks.
It’s time to also make drowsy driving unacceptable.
Recovery of Damages from a Tired Driver
Berenson Injury Law is here to help you if you have been crashed into by a tired or careless driver.