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December 7, 2017

Drowsy Driving Is a Serious Problem


PA Car Accident Lawyer

Traffic accidents involving drowsy drivers cause thousands of injuries each year. As experienced personal injury attorneys, the lawyers of The Levin Firm know how you feel after such an incident. You want help, and you want your life to return to normal.

If you were in a traffic accident in the Philadelphia area that involved a drowsy or fatigued driver, then protect your rights and explore your compensation options. The Levin Firm can help. Take advantage of a free consultation. Contact us at (215) 825-5183 or through our online contact form.

The Impacts of Driving When Drowsy or Fatigued

Driving fatigued or drowsy has serious impacts on traffic safety and, ultimately the well-being and quality of life for any drivers who encounter the hazard. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s traffic accidents statistics rely upon police and hospital reporting to estimate the number of traffic accidents related to drowsy driving. The NHTSA, however, can’t determine the exact number of accidents caused by drowsy driving, because police may not easily find conclusive crash-scene evidence of drowsy driving.

The agency estimated that in 2015, local law enforcement reported more than 72,000 accidents that involved drowsy or fatigued drivers, resulting in about 41,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths. While those numbers seem bad enough, experts in traffic safety, sleep science, and public health believes the numbers are much larger. These experts, according to the NHTSA, believe that drowsy driving contributes to seven percent of all crashes and 16.5 percent of all fatal accidents, which would mean that about 6,000 persons died in drowsy-driving related accidents in 2015.

Federal statistics show that drowsy driving contributed to 846 fatalities in 2014, representing 2.6 percent of all traffic deaths. These data points are consistent with the previous 10 years—between 2005 and 2009, drowsy driving factored in an average of 83,000 accidents each year, with about 886 fatalities each year—roughly 2.6 percent of all traffic fatalities annually—and an estimated 37,000 injuries annually. In addition, drowsy driving causes an estimated 45,000 traffic accidents each year that only result in property damage

The Leading Causes of Drowsy Driving

Why is there such an epidemic of drowsy driving? The NHTSA’s answers include:

  • Sleep loss. It seems simple, but people tend to discount this when they get behind the wheel.
  • When you’re driving and how far you’re driving. Driving between midnight and 6 a.m., driving a lot of miles or many hours each day, and driving for long periods without breaks are major causes.
  • Use of sedatives, including painkillers, some antidepressants, and some antihistamines.
  • Sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea syndrome and narcolepsy.
  • Alcoholic beverages.

Each of these factors has cumulative effects, meaning a combination of any of these greatly increases the risks of drowsy driving accidents.

Furthermore, three groups of drivers are particularly at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. They include, not surprisingly, night-shift workers and people who suffer from sleep apnea. Surprisingly, however, young people are the third group susceptible to drowsy driving—not because they party late all the time, but because of biology. The brain has a cluster of neurons that constitute a so-called sleep switch that tells our bodies when to sleep. This sleep switch works quite effective on sleep-deprived youth, causing to fall asleep involuntarily.

As for night-shift workers, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they are much more likely toface traffic accidents, particularly on their ways home from work. One study had night-shift workers drive on a test track at the time they normally would drive home from work. Nearly 40 percent of the test subjects showed signs of drowsy driving that nearly resulted in crashes.

Warning Signs That You Are Driving Drowsy

One key to stopping drowsy driving is for drivers to recognize the danger signs. The American Automobile Association cites a number of indicators that you are driving drowsy, including:

  • The inability to remember the last few miles you have driven
  • The inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
  • Your head feels heavy and keeps dropping
  • Drifting across driving lanes
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Inadvertently tailgating other vehicles
  • Missing traffic signs

Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that drowsy driving can mimic the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, drowsy drivers sometimes drive so poorly that they might appear drunk. The AAA foundation conducted a survey of police officers and found that:

  • 88 percent had stopped a driver they believed was drunk but was drowsy
  • 89 percent believed drowsy driving presents as much danger as drunk driving
  • 93 percent said drowsy driving is a serious problem for passenger car drivers
  • 97 percent said drowsy driving is a serious problem for truck drivers
  • 95 percent believed that drowsy drivers who cause crashes should receive driving violations

While most drowsy-driving accidents take place late at night or early in the morning, a large number also occur in the mid-afternoon. Natural sleep rhythms indicate that people are sleepiest at the mid-point of their night-time sleeps, and then again about 12 hours later. For most people, this second period of sleepiness comes between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at The Levin Firm

The Levin Firm is ready to help victims of drowsy drivers in the Philadelphia area. If a drowsy driver injured you in a traffic accident in the Philadelphia area, seek legal advice. The Levin Firm can help. Contact us at (215) 825-5183 or through our online contact form.

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