Most people are aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated and driving while distracted. However, ‘drowsy driving’ is another form of dangerous, impaired driving that goes largely unrecognized. In fact, studies show that being awake more than 20 hours results in the same level of impairment as having a blood alcohol level of .08. Drowsy driving and intoxicated driving cause some of the same side effects, which include: impairments in judgment, vision, performance and reaction time.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 100,000 crashes are reported each year as a direct result of drowsy driving. The NHTSA also reported that approximately 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses result from drowsy driving crashes across the country. In Florida alone, 2,826 crashes were attributed to drowsy driving in 2011. That same year, 21 people were killed and 2,393 were injured.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll in recent years that showed nearly 30 percent of American drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. It also showed that more than half said they have driven a vehicle while they were drowsy in the last year.
According to the UCLA Sleep Disorder Center, crashes that involve a driver who has fallen asleep behind the wheel can be exceedingly dangerous. This is due to the fact that the driver has not made any attempt to avoid a crash. For example, drivers who fall asleep at the wheel do not tap the brakes or swerve in an effort to minimize the damage or avoid the crash altogether. This is why there is often a higher rate of deaths in sleep-related auto accidents.
What is Florida doing to prevent drowsy driving?
In 2010, the Ronshay Dugans Act was passed by the Florida Legislature. The act was the result of a tragic accident in which the driver of a cement truck fell asleep behind the wheel and struck a bus. The accident took the life of an eight-year-old girl who was on her way to the Boys and Girls Club in Tallahassee. Her mother and aunt worked tirelessly following the accident to raise awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was established after the Governor Charlie Christ signed the Ronshay Dugans Act in order to raise awareness and provide education about the dangers involved in driving while fatigued with both Florida law enforcement and the public. This year’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week will be November 6th – 13th.
Who is most at risk of drowsy driving?
Everyone is at risk of falling asleep or becoming fatigued behind the wheel. However, some individuals are more at risk than others.
- Young and inexperienced drivers have a higher risk of drowsy driving. Males aged 16-25 have a tendency to be on the road late at night and are therefore at a high risk of becoming fatigued.
- People who work night shift, long hours, rotating shifts or more than one job are six times more likely to become drowsy while driving due to exhaustion.
- Commercial drivers who drive a significant number of miles and drive at night also have a higher risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.
- People with untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy are seven times more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash.
- People who travel frequently for business that may be suffering from jet lag or are crossing time zones may also have a higher chance of being involved in a crash due to drowsy driving.
- People who use medications with sedative side effects also have a much higher chance of falling asleep behind the wheel.
How do I know if I am too drowsy to drive?
If you are worried that you might be too drowsy to drive, there are a few warning signs to watch out for. If you are doing any of the following, you are probably too tired to drive.
- You are having trouble staying focused on the road, keeping your eyes open and your head up.
- You are blinking a lot.
- You are yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly.
- You are daydreaming and experiencing wandering thoughts.
- You are drifting from your lane frequently or tailgating other vehicles.
- You are missing signs or exits.
- You feel restless, irritable or aggressive.
- You are forced to turn the radio up or roll the windows down to stay awake.
- You have a slow reaction time and poor judgment.
- You are unable to remember the last few miles you have driven.
Drowsy Driving Can Be Prevented
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident with a fatigued or drowsy driver, it is important that you contact an experienced Orlando Auto Accident Lawyer immediately. The opinions of expert witnesses, effective use of discovery and an immediate and thorough investigation of the accident scene are all vital to your claim. At the Law Firm of Michael T. Gibson, we can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. Feel free to fill out our quick contact form on our website to discuss your legal options in greater detail.