The perils of alcohol or drug impaired driving have been long recognized. But fatigued drivers may pose similar dangers. Thousands of people are killed and injured in this country each year in motor vehicle accidents involving a fatigued driver.
Impact of fatigue
Missing sleep has the same effect as drinking alcohol. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 18 hours without sleep is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. Going 21 sleepless hours is the same of having a BAC of 0.08 percent which exceeds the legal limit for drunk driving in all 50 states. A day without sleep is equal to a BAC of 0.10 percent.
A motorist is three times as likely to become involved in a vehicle crash if they are fatigued. Reaction times, awareness of hazards and the ability to maintain attention decline as the driver becomes more tired.
A driver may be unaware that they are tired because it is hard to identify the signs of fatigue. Some drowsy drivers also experience micro-sleep, undergoing short and involuntary attention lapses, for four to five seconds. At highway speeds, this is the same as driving across an entire football field.
Scope of the problem
Figures are inconsistent and researchers believe this problem is underreported. The GHSA reported that there were 5,000 fatalities in accidents involving a fatigued driver in 2015.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are 100,00 accidents reported to the police each year involving fatigued driving. These cause over 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. However, these figures may be low because of the difficulty of determining whether a driver was drowsy when the accident occurred.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s data is more alarming. There are 328,000 fatigue-related accidents each year, according to its estimates. This is three times greater than police reports. The AAA reported that 109,000 of the accidents caused injury and 6,400 had fatalities. The frequency of these accidents was 350 percent more than previously reported.
Each year, these fatal and injury accidents have an estimated societal cost of $109 billion. This estimate does not include property damage.
This risk is unrecognized
Fatigued driving is prevalent. Almost half of all motorists in this country admitted to routinely driving while feeling tired. Approximately 20 percent of drivers said they fell asleep when driving in the previous year while over 40 percent admitted this occurred at least once since they began driving.
This is a serious problem for younger motorists. Drivers under 25-years-old, primarily male drivers, are involved in an estimated 50 percent of fatigued-driving accidents.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine identified several signs of fatigued driving. These include frequent yawning, trouble with keeping your eyes open, inability remembering driving the last few miles, missing traffic signs or turns, trouble maintaining speed and drifting out of lanes.
An attorney can help obtain evidence that another driver was impaired or negligent. They can help pursue compensation in a timely-filed personal injury lawsuit.