It’s difficult to determine whether an accident was caused by drowsy driving, and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) believes that the 1,550 deaths attributed to drowsy driving every year may not accurately reflect the real number. However, as a responsible driver, you can do your part to prevent an accident related to sleepiness. It’s important to understand why drowsy driving accidents are difficult to identify, how to know when you’re too sleepy to drive, what you can do to prevent a crash, and how an attorney can help if you’ve been injured in a drowsy driving accident.
Attributing Accidents to Drowsiness Is Difficult
The NSF says that current numbers about the pervasiveness of drowsy driving may be too low because:
- No drowsiness-detection device exists as they do for breath or blood tests for drunk driving.
- Reporting methods vary inconsistently from state to state.
- People may or may not self-report by admitting they were asleep or sleepy behind the wheel.
- Drowsiness is not always the only cause behind an accident.
- Drowsy driving accidents can appear similar to accidents of other causes such as reckless, drunk, or drugged driving.
However, some factors at a crash scene make it possible to identify an accident caused by driving while sleepy, including:
- The time of the crash. Drowsy driving accidents often happen late at night or in the early morning—usually between 12:00 am and 8:00 am. Additionally, fatigue may cause accidents in the middle of the day, between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
- No evidence of accident avoidance. It’s typical for a person to take steps to prevent a crash when he sees it coming. However, in a drowsiness-related accident, witnesses may report that they saw no brake lights before the crash, and no skid marks exist on the road.
- Whether the driver was alone. The Sleep Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) reports that drowsy driving accidents involved a single driver 82 percent of the time. When passengers are in the car, they can keep the driver awake and vocalize when they think the driver is too tired to continue.
Identifying Drowsy Driving
Just as with food and water, your body needs enough sleep to function properly and survive. Without sufficient sleep, a person’s brain will begin to force the body into resting—even while doing an important task like driving. Common signs you are too sleepy to drive include:
- Frequent yawning
- Frequent blinking and heavy-feeling eyes
- Thoughts that wander
- Inattention to traffic rules and signs
- Trouble remembering the past few miles or how far you’ve traveled
- Difficulty staying in the lane; hitting a rumble strip
It’s also possible and important to identify another sleepy driver while you’re on the road with one. To prevent an accident with a sleepy driver, avoid cars that are:
- Swerving, jerking, or drifting
- Braking suddenly
- Slowing down and speeding up frequently
Preventing Drowsy Driving Accidents Is Possible
It’s important to take steps to prevent a drowsy driving crash n u7yuoby:
- Getting sufficient sleep. Generally, adults need 6-8 hours of sleep a night, but every person has different needs.
- Stopping to take a nap if you feel sleepy at all. Even 20 minutes will help energize your brain and keep you alert.
- Avoiding alcohol and medications. Even one drink can increase feelings of sleepiness, and medications like narcotics or allergy relievers may come with drowsiness as a side effect.
- Riding with an alert passenger. Because so many sleepiness-related accidents occur with a single driver, having an awake person next to you in the vehicle may help you stay alert.
- Drowsy driving accidents can be deadly, but they are preventable. Drivers who get enough sleep at night, drive with an alert passenger, and know when to take breaks can help avoid accidents caused by being overly tired. Additionally, it’s important to understand how an attorney can help if you’ve already been injured by a sleepy driver.
An Attorney Can Help You Recover After an Accident
If you’ve recently been injured in an accident, and you suspect drowsy driving is to blame, it’s important to contact a trustworthy attorney as soon as possible. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can review the facts of your case and help you earn fair compensation for your injuries and damages. Contact us by filling out the online form on our website to get started.