When Drivers Fall Asleep at the Wheel

Sleep deprivation is claiming lives on American roads at an alarming rate and in 2016 nearly 5,000 people were killed by drowsy drivers. It is a significant factor in rising car accident fatality rates and is one of the reasons 2016 was the deadliest year in the past 50 years for motorists in America.

Drowsy Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Every hour of lost sleep increases the risk of causing a drowsy driving accident. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who sleep a mere 5-6 hours within a 24-hour period are more than twice as likely to cause an accident as someone who sleeps 7 or more hours.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that as many as 20% of all fatal accidents involve a drowsy driver. Research by the NHTSA and other agencies has shown that an individual who is moderately sleep deprived (18 hours without sleep) has the same impaired reflexes and diminished ability to process information as an individual with a BAC level of .5% or greater. For those who have gone 24 hours without sleep, the effect is the same as having a .10% BAC.

Between 2009 and 2013, there were over 72,000 police-reported accidents that involved a drowsy driver. These accidents caused approximately 41,000 injuries and 800 deaths. However, the problem is considered to be even greater than these official statistics. According to estimates within the Governors Highway Safety Administration study funded by State Farm Insurance, there are an average of 328,000 drowsy driving accidents each year that cause more than 109,000 injuries and up to 6,400 fatalities.

Drowsy Driving Crash Characteristics

Most drowsy driving accidents occur late at night or early in the morning. They are among the most common injury and fatality types of accidents. They often occur on high-speed roadways or on rural roads where long stretches of uninterrupted roadway “lull” drivers to sleep. In most cases, there is no evidence that the driver attempted to slow or stop their vehicle before the accident. In fact, that is one of the most common telltale signs that a motorist was asleep at the wheel at the time of the crash.

Liability for Drowsy Driving

Individuals who cause a drowsy driving accident are liable for the personal injuries, wrongful deaths, and property damage their negligent actions cause. A car accident attorney in Nevada can help injured parties pursue compensation for medical expenses, property damage, loss of consortium, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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