Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving; both diminish a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and awareness. Reflexes are slow when one is sleepy, increasing the odds of a wreck when a driver falls asleep behind the wheel. Too many drivers “tough it out” by believing they can still pay attention to the road while drowsy. But, in truth, no one can know the precise moment they fall asleep. It’s easy for tired drivers to doze off, oblivious to the fact that they (and others) are at risk.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tells us that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur every year. That same AAA report also suggests that drivers who sleep only 5 or 6 hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as those who get at least 7 hours of sleep. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that fatigue-related crashes resulting in injury or death cost our economy $109 billion annually — and that’s before figuring in property damage.
The less sleep a driver has gotten, the higher the crash rate, according to AAA. For instance, drivers in the study who got only four or five hours of sleep had four times the crash rate — about the same as drunk drivers.
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, you can claim and recover damages which include medical costs, property loss, lost income, and pain and suffering. Your best chance for such a positive resolution is through hiring a seasoned Houston drowsy driving injury lawyer to help you.
Dramatic Impact of Sleep Deprivation on our Ability to Drive Safely
“If you haven’t slept 7 or more hours in a given 24-hour period, you really shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car,” says Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA.
Drowsy driving occurs so frequently because sleep deprivation has become a daily problem for many. People often begin their long, slow morning work commute after a poor night’s sleep. Drivers don’t realize the extent to which fatigue impacts their reactions and ability to focus on the road.
The effects of sleep deprivation on our ability to drive can lead to serious problems, such as
Impaired judgment and dramatically slower reaction times
Increased aggression toward other drivers
Short-term memory difficulties
Truckers are Most Susceptible to Drowsy Driving
Drowsy truck drivers pulling an 80,000-pound fully-loaded big rig put all of us at risk. Their long hours on the road, tight deadlines, and pressure from employers to keep to strict delivery schedules can all contribute to drowsy driving. While we in our private vehicles can pull off the road anytime we want to grab a quick catnap that fights drowsiness, over-the-road truckers seldom have that luxury. So they push themselves into a danger zone that threatens us all.
This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created an hours of service schedule that all truck drivers must obey. It requires all truckers who are hauling cargo to adhere to an 11-hour maximum driving limit and mandates that they be off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours before beginning a shift. Sadly, some transport companies force their drivers to ignore this regulation just to meet delivery deadlines.
Sleep May be Necessary, but Not all Truckers Find it Restful
Even when drivers are able to rest, road trips don’t necessarily offer the best sleeping conditions. Those who sleep in their cabs don’t all have comfortable mattresses, controlled environments, lighting conditions, or the silence needed for a deep, restful sleep. Many times their sleep cycles are interrupted or the amount of deep REM sleep is reduced, which is a prominent cause of drowsiness.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FCMSA) was forced by the Trump Administration to abandon its program to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers. Apnea is a common affliction to those in both vocations. The decision to drop the requirement – which was welcomed by the majority of U.S. trucking and railroad transport companies – has safety experts warning that millions of innocent lives are at risk. President Trump argues that it should be up to the railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees. More’s the pity.
If you or a loved one is the victim of a drowsy driver, call the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant to learn more about your legal options. To schedule a free consultation with our firm, contact us today by filling out our online form or giving us a call.