Driving distractions can take many forms. The highest-profile campaigns have waged war against those who drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, along with people, particularly teenagers, distracted by their smartphones.
Not as notable are those who are severely sleep-deprived, yet get behind the wheel of a car, a decision that presents similar dangers akin to drunk driving. According to the CDC, a driver who operates a motor vehicle after not sleeping for 18 hours mimics a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 percent.
The serious consequences of sleep deprivation
Drowsy driving is a severe problem that affects focus, delays reaction times, and impairs judgment when it comes to distances and speeds. Falling asleep is the worst-case scenario.
According to the National Safety Council, 100,000 crashes lead to 71,000 injuries combined with 1,550 fatalities every year. AAA reports that drowsy driving accounts for almost ten percent of all motor vehicle collisions.
For many, sleep deprivation is not intentional. Stress over jobs and other issues or infants and young children that wake up parents in the middle of the night play a role. Other factors are treatable and preventable and include medication taken before the drive or an undiagnosed sleep disorder. Those driving home from working third shifts are equally susceptible to drowsy driving.
Between midnight and 6:00 am is “prime time” for driving while tired, with the most common settings being highways and rural roads. A majority of those crashes involve a driver running off the road without striking another car. A significant number end up colliding with another vehicle, resulting in serious injuries and death.
While not necessarily intentional, drowsy driving is still considered negligent. Legal help may be necessary when accidents occur to hold the driver accountable through a personal injury claim.