According to a report recently released by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), nearly 5,000 Americans were killed in drowsy driving-related crashes in 2015.
The report, aptly titled “Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do,” further reports that the high cost of driver fatigue is not only felt in the thousands of human lives lost and injuries suffered, but also in dollars: drowsy driving costs America an estimated $109 billion annually, not even including property damage from crashes.
The practical impact when drivers don’t sleep
Most of us have gotten behind the wheel of our cars without getting our full eight hours of sleep beforehand. We may have stayed up late watching a big game or had to deal with a sick child who couldn’t rest. Whatever the reason, there are some days when we feel like we might not have gotten adequate sleep. We may feel that it isn’t a big deal. We load up on caffeine, roll the window down or blast the radio up to keep us awake. We may assume that there isn’t really an impact on our bodies when we are tired, and that “drowsy driving” isn’t a problem.
Scientific analysis has shown that fatigue actually has a huge impact on our bodies, though. Getting behind the wheel of a car after being awake for 18 hours causes slowed reactions, poor judgment, inattention and sluggish reflexes comparable to having a .05 blood alcohol content level. The effects worsen the longer someone stays awake without adequate rest; by the time a person has been awake for 24 hours, he or she is just as impaired as someone with a .10 BAC (which is more than the legal limit in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.).
The report indicates that anyone could possibly drive while fatigued, but there are certain groups of people who seem more likely to than others, and who could benefit from public education campaigns, reminders and lifestyle changes to improve the quantity – and quality – of their rest. These include:
- Teens and young adults (who often overestimate their driving skills even when not tired)
- People with sleeping disorders (an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, many of them undiagnosed or untreated, which can cause inadequate rest and result in significant daytime fatigue)
- Shift workers
- People who primarily drive at night
If you or someone you care about has been hurt because of the careless actions of a drowsy driver, you have legal rights, including the right to bring a claim for compensation to cover the costs of your injuries. For more information, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.