A recent study suggests that as many as 6,000 Americans die annually in drowsy driving-related wrecks.
Researchers in the journal Sleep noted that millions of American drivers fall asleep at the wheel every month, and 15% of deadly crashes involve a driver who fell asleep.
According to lead study author Stephen Higgins, a researcher at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington, DC, fatigued driving is not just falling asleep while driving; it also is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. Being drowsy causes slower reaction times and lowered attention to essential driving tasks. Further, it impairs mental processing, judgement and making decisions.
Higgins recommends that if you start to get tired while you drive, you should pull over for a 30 minute nap in a safe area. Also, drinking a caffeinated drink along with the nap will help, but the caffeine boost only helps for a short period.
The study also noted that many lifestyle factors can increase the odds of drowsy driving. People who work long, irregular hours, such as truck drivers, tend to be at higher risk.
The study concluded that the societal cost of driving while drowsy is $109 billion per year.
Our Virginia personal injury attorneys are concerned about so many people being killed due to fatigued driving each year. This alarming study does not really surprise us; our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys have represented many people whose lives have been shattered by a driver who fell asleep while driving.
As the above story points out, truck drivers are at expecially high risk for falling asleep while driving. Statistics suggest that 13% of truck accidents are caused by a sleepy driver. Trucker fatigue is common because truck drivers drive for long stretches without rest. Also, trucker fatigue can be cuased by the shipper who is pushing to get the merchandise delivered fast.
There are many federal regulations designed to reduce truck driver fatigue, but it still is a major problem that kills thousands of people every year.
Our Virginia truck crash attorneys have experience with serious truck wrecks caused by sleepy drivers. We had a client once who was rear ended by a truck at 40 MPH at a stop sign. The back seat unfortunately was occupied by the couple’s young children. The front seats collapsed onto the children’s heads, and both suffered brain trauma. In the end, the trucking injury brain injury case settled for $5.5 million, but those children will suffer the consequences of the drowsy trucker crash for life.