CDC Says Driving Drowsy is as Risky as Drunk Driving


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According to the CDC, falling asleep at the wheel isn't the only cause of car accidents when people drive while fatigued. Being exhausted impairs cognitive ability so much that after just 18 hours without sleep, a driver has the impairment of someone with a 0.05 blood-alcohol level. When they hit the 24-hour mark, it jumps to the equivalent of a 0.10 blood-alcohol level. Despite the fact driving with such high blood-alcohol content is illegal in all states, there are no laws that specify the amount of sleep one must have before getting behind the wheel. Because it's difficult to prove a driver was impaired by sleep-deprivation, the number of collisions caused, due to its effects, is hard to establish. However, the CDC estimates that 2.5 percent of fatal collisions, as well as 2 percent of wrecks that cause injury, are the result of driving while drowsy. In total, this adds up to as many as 6,000 fatal car accidents yearly. What Fatigue Does Primarily, exhaustion causes a driver to be unable to focus. This distracted driving makes it difficult for the vehicle's operator to recognize hazards on the road. It slows reaction time, which means that even when a fatigued driver sees an issue, they can't always respond quickly enough to stop a collision. It also affects decision-making abilities, which increases the risk of having a car accident. It's worth noting that the techniques people commonly use to stay alert, such as playing loud music or opening a window, are ineffective. A few of the symptoms that a drowsy driver might exhibit include:

  • Rubbing eyes or blinking
  • Yawning
  • Drifting (even within a lane)
  • Difficulty remembering recent landmarks
  • Restlessness or irritability

Who is at Risk One study indicated that 37 percent of Americans have actually fallen asleep at the wheel, while an astonishing 60 percent have driven while feeling sleepy. Adults need 7-8 hours of nightly sleep and at least 35 percent of the population gets less than that. Moreover, this doesn't account for quality of rest, and an estimated 50-70 million Americans have sleep or wakefulness disorders. The trouble is that many people who drive while tired are unaware of either their level of exhaustion, or of how it impacts their ability to drive safely, which means just about anyone behind the wheel can be at risk. However, it's been noted that commercial drivers, shift workers and those who work overnight are at greater risk for driving drowsy. The CDC has referred to insufficient sleep as a "public health epidemic." For someone behind the wheel, it can be deadly and devastating. It's also a passive form of distracted driving, which means that the key to ending the tragedies that result from it, is driver education. People need to be aware of the effects of sleep deprivation, and watch for signs of it within themselves before they get behind the wheel.

Charleston Car Accident Attorney

If you have lost a loved one due to a fatigued driver, or have been injured in a collision that was caused by one, you may be eligible for a financial settlement. Let us know about your case or speak directly with one of our attorneys by calling 1(800)610-2546.

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