Drowsy driving kills, as hundreds of grieving families learn every year. In 2019, 697 people lost their lives during accidents involving tired drivers across the nation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA's drowsy driving statistics rely on police reports and hospital records to determine what caused a collision and who was harmed, meaning there is some room for error. The agency estimates that there are about 91,000 police-reported crashes involving tired drivers each year, causing 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 fatalities.
A study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, however, found that drowsy driving accident statistics may be about three times higher than the NHTSA's estimates. Researchers estimated that 328,000 drowsy driving accidents happen in the U.S. each year, 109,000 of which cause injury and 6,400 of which are fatal.
How Common Is Drowsy Driving?
Drowsy driving most typically happens to the following people:
- Commercial drivers
- Drivers who work late-night shifts
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea
- Drivers on medication
- People who are regularly sleep-deprived
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 25 drivers report that they have fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days. This is a shocking number on its own, but many more drivers admit that they have gotten behind the wheel while fatigued or sleep-deprived. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that driving while tired is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, affecting reaction time, awareness, and attention.
According to the NSC, drivers are reportedly three times more likely to be involved in accidents if they are tired.
How Are Drivers Affected by Drowsy Driving?
When a person is tired, they can be affected in a few different ways. For drivers, this can have disastrous consequences.
Drivers are affected by drowsy driving because:
- Their reaction time may be delayed
- Their ability to keep their attention on the road and other vehicles or objects may be inhibited
- Their awareness of potential hazards may be affected
A car accident can happen in a split second. It only takes a moment of inattention or a slightly delayed reaction to cause a collision or put a driver in a situation where they cannot deal with a hazard on the road, like an animal or slowed/stopped traffic. Driving is a task that requires one's full mental and physical attention. This is true even if you've driven on that same road 100 times before, even when there's no traffic, and even when the weather is clear. Drivers are affected by drowsy driving regardless of their age or experience level.
Texas Leads the Nation in Drowsy Driving Accidents
According to one report, the state of Texas leads the nation in fatal accidents caused by drowsy driving.
The Amerisleep report used data collected from the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Known as FARS, this system provides nationwide data for fatal car accident information. The system was designed to improve highway safety by increasing awareness of fatal accident causes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 out of 25 drivers fall asleep while behind the wheel each month. The CDC also estimates that the number of deaths caused by drowsy drivers could be even higher than records indicate, amounting to as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year. Amerisleep found one piece of data that Texas drivers should be concerned about: Texas was the location of 22.1 percent of drowsy driving fatalities in 2016. This means that 1 in 5 drowsing driving fatalities occur in Texas.
Texas doesn’t just have the most fatal accidents caused by drowsy driving—it leads the nation by a considerable margin. The state with the closest amount of deadly accidents is Alabama at 6 percent.
Three Key Factors Associated with Drowsy Driving Crashes
According to the NHTSA's report on drowsy driving, there were three factors frequently associated with accidents of this kind:
- Most drowsy driving accidents happen between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon. These are the times of day when most people experience drops in their circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that regulates one's internal clock, including sleep.
- The majority of accidents involving tired drivers only involve one vehicle, one driver, and no passengers. Most occur when vehicles run off the road, showing no signs of attempted braking or other evasive maneuvers.
- Rural roads and highways are the most frequent locations of drowsy driving accidents in the U.S.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is dangerous, but it's preventable. Drivers should ensure that they follow a healthy sleep schedule and get plenty of rest before driving. If you consistently feel tired, even after sleeping, you might have a sleeping disorder. Visiting a doctor for treatment of sleep apnea or other disorders could mean that you will feel more rested and might also save your life! If you are on medication, be sure to check if drowsiness is a common side effect. Most importantly, stopping for rest at the first sign of tiredness is crucial to saving lives.
Symptoms of drowsiness include:
- Excessive yawning
- Frequent blinking
- Heavy eyelids
If you're driving and are having trouble concentrating or keeping your eyes open, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Trying to stay awake from energy drinks or coffee is ill-advised, as they are short-term solutions. You may still experience "micro sleeps," which are short losses of consciousness lasting only a few seconds. A few seconds is all it takes to lose control, drive off the road, or crash.
Together, drivers can prevent deadly accidents by employing safe driving habits. If you or someone you know is struggling after an accident caused by a drowsy driver, call Arnold & Itkin today at (888) 493-1629. Our motor vehicle accident attorneys have won billions for clients facing some of the most difficult moments of their lives; we're equipped to help you too.