Drowsy Driving Is a Serious Roadway Hazard
Due to efforts from transportation safety organizations and law enforcement, the general public has a much greater understanding of the risks of engaging in certain behaviors while behind the wheel. For many years, public awareness and enforcement campaigns have been working diligently in order to reduce the rate of drunk driving across the country —with significant success. Similar measures have been used recently to pursue like results to reduce instances of distracted driving, which has experienced a dramatic rise as a roadway risk due to the popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. However, there is another condition that can pose just as much of a risk as drinking or distraction on the road that has received much less attention. Similar to drunk or distracted driving, drowsy driving can potentially result in deadly accidents.
Drowsy Driving: the Understated Hazard
It may not be breaking news that falling asleep behind the wheel is a serious danger, but much less attention has been placed on stopping drowsy driving compared to other hazardous driving behaviors. This is partly due to a lack of adequate information. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that, from the year 2005 to 2009, only 2.5 percent of deadly car crashes involved a driver who was tired or sleepy, coming out to 5,021 reported deaths across the country during that time period. Certainly, any preventable death is a tragedy, but those figures aren’t as alarming for many. Sadly, it seems that those numbers are a serious underestimation of the real toll of drowsy driving.
The primary reason that the figures from the NHTSA are so conservative is that it’s often hard to determine if a driver involved in a crash was drowsy at the time of the collision. In certain cases, a driver may be completely unaware of how fatigue or drowsiness has impaired his or her driving. Other motorists may just not want to admit to the police that they fell asleep while operating their car. Unlike alcohol intoxication, there is no straightforward test that can determine if a driver was drowsy at the time of an accident. Therefore, it’s hard to really say how a driver has been impacted by fatigue at the time of a collision.
The Accurate Figures Are More Shocking
A study conducted by the AAA Foundation found that more than half of drivers in crashes studied had “unknown” levels of pre-crash alertness. Put more simply, it was nearly impossible to accurately determine if the driver was alert or drowsy. Only around one-third of the collisions examined in the AAA Foundation study involved drivers that were knowingly alert at the time of an accident. Using several, sophisticated techniques to estimate the chances of drowsiness in the “unknown” group of drivers, the AAA Foundation came to figures that are much more dramatic than those provided by NHTSA. According to the AAA Foundation, 21 percent of all deadly accidents involve at least one drowsy driver. That’s nearly a factor 10 times greater than figures provided by the government.
While this data showing the known dangers of drowsy driving is not widely known, most people innately understand that driving while fatigued is a risk. Respondents to Traffic Safety Culture Index surveys by the AAA Foundation were almost unanimous in their agreement that driving while tired is unsafe, with 96 percent of respondents labeling it “unacceptable.”
So, Why Do People Still Get Behind the Wheel Tired?
Sadly, humans have a tendency to overestimate their abilities and underestimate possible impairments. A majority of impairments will agree that others shouldn’t go and drive while tired, but they may still think that it’s okay if they do.
Busy schedules, long working hours, and poor sleep habits all contribute to creating drivers that aren’t as well-rested as they should be. The National Sleep Foundation found that around 70 million people suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation. 1 in every 10 drivers has fallen asleep while driving in the past year. A majority of these drivers are people who probably thought they weren’t tired. It can be a hard thing to notice for most people. Life can’t stop just because of a restless night. People still have to go to work, school, or do whatever other obligations required of them. People who go out late still need to go home. Even if you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s tempting to push yourself through your sleepiness and get wherever you need to go. However, this can be extremely dangerous.
If you feel sleepy or tired, but don’t have the luxury of trading off with a more alert driver, there are other options. Unless you’re unable to due to health concerns, drink a bit of caffeine, but give it about 30 minutes to kick in before hitting the road. If you can’t do caffeine, or you’re so tired that a strong cup of coffee won’t make a difference, your best option is to pull over somewhere safe and take a quick nap. You can never control the actions of other drivers. If you find yourself the victim of a crash involving a drowsy driver, contact a qualified New Jersey personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Drowsy Driving Accidents in New Jersey
Drowsy driving is an understated hazard on American roadways. Nearly 37 percent of drivers have admitted to nodding off behind the wheel in the past year. The NHTSA claims that 2.4 percent of deadly crashes involve drowsy drivers, but the real figure is likely much higher.
Crash victims risk suffering life-threatening injuries in the event of an accident. The resulting damages can easily disrupt life and make recovery difficult. Injured parties should consult with a qualified New Jersey personal injury lawyer to discuss possible compensation.
At Brady, Brady, & Reilly, LLC, we believe in fighting for those unfairly injured in a sudden crash. We will fight for your legal rights after an accident. Give us a call today at (201) 997- 0030 to discuss your case.