May 19, 2021
While distracted driving, reckless driving, and intoxicated driving all receive a decent amount of attention, a common cause of car accidents that often goes unnoticed is drowsy driving. This blog will examine the prevalence of drowsy driving car accidents, look at the number of fatalities that result, and review signs and symptoms to help keep you and your family safe when traveling California’s roads and highways.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that driving while drowsy is similar to driving while under influence of alcohol. In terms of specific impairments, drowsy driving can have multiple adverse effects, including:
As signs of fatigue (which we’ll address below) can be difficult to perceive, a driver might not even know when he or she is actually tired. Furthermore, some people may experience “micro-sleep” periods of short, involuntary inattention when driving while drowsy. Micro-sleep periods can result in four to five seconds of inattention. In that amount of time, at highway speeds, a vehicle will reportedly travel the length of a football field.
While drowsy driving is a serious problem in the Unites States, the Insurance Information Institute (III) notes that perhaps one of the reasons why this issue does not receive more attention is the fact that determining a precise number of drowsy driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities is challenging. Such statistics rely on police reports and hospital records to determine exact numbers, and this information can be difficult to recover.
That said, an American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety report published in February 2018 analyzed the driving behavior of about 3,600 drivers over several months between October 2010 and December 2013. The study utilized in-vehicle cameras and other technological data collection equipment. The study’s findings were, to say the least, alarming.
The AAA found that, among drivers who were involved in car crashes, observable driver drowsiness (assessed on the basis of eyelid closures) was present in an estimated 8.8% to 9.5% of all incidents. That means almost one out of every 10 motor vehicle collisions may be due to drowsy driving.
Furthermore, the study determined that 10.6% to 10.8% of those crashes were severe enough that they had to be reported to police. The AAA’s figures are significantly higher than statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which reported that driver drowsiness was involved in an estimated 1.4% of all police-reported crashes nationwide. According to that data from the NHTSA, 2.0% of the crashes resulted in injuries, and 2.4% resulted in a death from 2011 to 2015.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 or older) report having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. Additionally, the CDC identified specific traits of drivers who are more likely to operate a motor vehicle when drowsy.
Those traits include:
Fatality figures for drowsy driving car accidents vary from year-to-year. In a recent report, the NHTSA estimated that about 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsy driving. Those crashes lead to more than 1,550 fatalities (and 71,000 injuries) every year. However, that particular report cautions that the real number may actually be much higher, noting the difficulty in determining whether or not a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash.
Another study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. That’s over three times the police-reported number estimated by the NHTSA. The same study found that 109,000 of those drowsy driving crashes resulted in an injury, with approximately 6,400 fatalities. In that particular study, researchers suggested the true prevalence of drowsy driving fatalities is more than 350% greater than actually reported.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), between 2013 and 2017 there were a total of 4,111 fatalities that involved drowsy driving. In 2017, there were 91,000 police-reported crashes that involved drowsy drivers. Of those crashes, about 50,000 were injured as a result of drowsy driving.
A study by the AAA Foundation found that drivers age 24 and younger were actually most likely to report having fallen asleep while behind the wheel in the past year. That finding is consistent with other studies that have concluded younger drivers have a higher risk of falling asleep while driving (although this may seem counterintuitive given the stereotype of elderly people suddenly falling asleep without warning).
Knowing your own personal habits and sleep needs can be important in helping to prevent drowsy driving accidents.
The CDC identified individual warning signs for drowsy driving that all drivers should learn. Those warning signs include:
If any of those warning signs are exhibited, it is recommended that drivers pull over to a safe location (a parking lot or rest area is preferred) and stop operating the vehicle. If a non-drowsy passenger is available, allow them to drive. If you are alone, proceed with a “power nap” that is long enough in duration to allay all of the above warning signs.
Tiredness or fatigue can manifest in various ways depending on the individual and his or her health. Some common symptoms of fatigue may include:
Depending on your perspective, the fact that sleep requirements are highly individualized may be a positive or a negative. Unfortunately, an exact number of sleep hours that applies to everyone does not exist. Many factors – including age, overall health, specific diseases or disorders, and more – can determine how much sleep a person needs in order to not experience fatigued when driving.
However, the general consensus is that for young adults age 18 to 30, eight hours of sleep each night is recommended. Adults above 30 may be able to operate without fatigue on seven hours of sleep, but eight is the general recommendation for most people. For those younger than 18, nine to 10 hours of sleep per night is recommended.
Teenage drivers should be particularly cautious about driving when fatigued or drowsy given their need for additional sleep. With school schedules not always accommodating teenagers’ busy schedules, drowsy driving is a serious concern that should be addressed each and every time a young driver takes to the roads.
At Dordulian Law Group (DLG), we’ve successfully represented countless clients who were injured by a drowsy driver in a car accident. If you’re the victim of a drowsy driver, secure the DLG Advantage to ensure your claim is handled successfully and you recover a maximum financial damages award.
If you’ve been injured in a drowsy driving accident, it might be tempting to accept a quick cash settlement from the insurance company. But before you do that, consider the following confirmed statistics from a study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC):
Before settling with the insurance company for an amount that may not cover any long-term injuries or future medical care, reach out to the experienced Car Accident Division team of attorneys at DLG for a free consultation. You have nothing to lose except a maximum financial damages award that far exceeds the initial offer from the insurance company.
And if you’re not convinced, take a look at some of DLG’s recent results. You might notice that we regularly turn $5,000 offers from insurance adjusters into multi-million dollar damages awards for our clients. When you’re ready, we’re here to do the same for you.
Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.
When people talk about the ‘DLG Advantage,’ they’re usually referring to three unique benefits we offer that other firms just can’t match:
Instead, we take the case to trial and prove it before a jury of your peers. We’ve done it on countless occasions, helping to ensure our clients aren’t taken advantage of and are able to make a complete recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.