Drowsy driving is a deadly but underestimated problem

This article looks at how deadly drowsy driving is and why it is such an underappreciated problem.

Americans are largely fully aware of just how deadly drunk driving and texting and driving are. While those two behaviors still kill far too many people each year, there is at least widespread understanding of how dangerous driving drunk or distracted really is. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about drowsy driving. As USA Today reports, drowsy drivers are responsible for an estimated 328,000 crashes each year, 6,400 of which are fatal. Below is a look at how dangerous drowsy driving is and why the problem is so difficult to crack down on.

How dangerous is drowsy driving?

It is difficult to say with certainty just how many crashes and fatalities are attributable to drowsy drivers. The AAA Foundation estimates, as mentioned above, that 328,000 accidents each year are caused by fatigued drivers. However, the AAA also contends that figure may be an underestimation because crash reports are often incomplete and there is no standard definition for what constitutes drowsy driving.

However, studies have shown just how deadly driving while tired is. As NPR reports, a separate AAA Foundation study found that drivers who get just five to six hours of sleep in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as those who get the full recommended seven hours of sleep. For every hour of sleep lost, the risk of a crash also increases dramatically.

An underappreciated problem

While most people would never drive drunk, driving while tired is something that many drivers admit to having done at least occasionally. About a third of Americans regularly don't get enough sleep, with some workers, such as those who work night shifts, nurses, and truck drivers, being at especially high risk of sleep loss.

The problem of drowsy driving is widespread not only because so many Americans are losing sleep, but also because police have a hard time getting drowsy drivers off the road. While fatigued drivers may veer out of their lanes and maintain an inconsistent speed much like a drunk driver would, when a fatigued driver is pulled over adrenaline will often kick in, making that driver appear awake and alert to the officer. A number of states are beginning to train their officers to be specially equipped to spot driver s who may be running on too little sleep.

What to do after a crash

Drowsy driving needs to be treated with the same seriousness as drunk and distracting driving are. Anybody who has been hurt in a car accident, especially if the accident was caused by a driver who may have been fatigued or who for another reason should not have been behind the wheel, should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney can help accident victims understand what options are available to them and, if possible, help them pursue financial compensation for their injuries.