Don’t snooze on the dangers of driving while drowsy

November 9, 2016 | 9:05 am


It’s a fact — driving drowsy is dangerous.

It’s estimated that 300,000 crashes every year involve drowsy driving, which also contributes to up to 6,400 deaths per year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The National Sleep Foundation is raising awareness of the danger of driving while drowsy, and educating drivers on sleep safety in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to ultimately save lives.

The annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road. And nearly one in four adults in the United States say they know someone personally who has fallen asleep at the wheel.

“Drowsiness impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said William Horrey, research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in The Detroit News. “When our brains are tired, our attention, judgment and ability to act are greatly impacted, which has the potential for disaster on the road, particularly if there’s inclement weather or a critical situation requiring quick response.”

In fact, a new study by AAA showed that drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving, and that one in five fatal crashes is caused because a driver involved did not have enough sleep.

 

Drowsy Driving Safety 

So what can you do to prevent drowsy driving? Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of National Sleep Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests the following:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. It’s recommended adult get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
  • If you’re planning a long road trip, make sure you plan properly for rest stops — a break every 100 miles or every two hours on the road is suggested.
  • Also, try to travel during times you are normally awake.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. Period.
  • Drink caffeine if you feel sleepy, and see how you feel first before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you feel too sleepy, find someplace safe to take a nap or sleep, or stay the night somewhere. After, you’ll feel energized and ready to drive!

“If you’re tired, please don’t get behind the wheel. Think of your safety and your passengers, but also of the safety of others on the road,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David K. Cohn. “And if you get tired while driving, please pull over and find a safe place to sleep.”

The Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm recently resolved a wrongful death lawsuit in which a driver fell asleep at wheel, jumped a curb and struck a jogger as he ran on the sidewalk. The jogger was also a husband and father of a little girl. That case settled for $6 million.

 

Drowsy Driving Research 

SleepJunkie, a website focused on improving sleeping habits, recently conducted a study to understand which roads, states, and times of day have the most sleep-related fatalities. The website analyzed six years of fatal driving accidents from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data to illustrate the deadly effects of driving while drowsy.

The study found that drowsy driving-related roadway fatalities spike in the early morning hours, with 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., marking the deadliest span. The hours just before and after — 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — were the second and third most fatal times. This dispels the myth that the threat of falling asleep at the wheel happens most in the nighttime hours.

Busy interstates accounted for the most sleep-related driving deaths compared to other roadways. Utility vehicles were involved in the highest percentage of fatal sleepy-driver accidents with pickup trucks and vans next on the list, the study found. Dawn light and foggy skies contributed the most to fatal sleep-related accidents.

Three of the top five most dangerous counties for fatal drowsy-driving accidents were in California, although Kern County was not one of them. They included San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County.

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If you or someone you know is hurt in a motor vehicle accident — whether it’s in a car, truck, bicycle, while walking or by a big rig — call the injury and accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.