Government officials and safety advocates agree that drowsy driving is a serious problem. Unfortunately, unlike with drunk driving, there’s not a simple test that the police can use to identify drowsy drivers. The adrenaline rush of a car crash can quickly jolt a driver back into consciousness. And most drivers are unwilling to report that they were dozing off behind the wheel.
Because it’s hard to link most crashes to drowsy driving, experts believed for a long time that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) underreported drowsy driving in its crash statistics. According to the official data, only 1–2% of U.S. crashes involve a drowsy driver. But a recent study supports experts’ suspicions and shows that the rate of drowsy driving may be much, much higher.
AAA Study Finds 11% of Drivers Dozing Behind the Wheel
Early in 2018, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a new study that monitored more than 3,500 drivers over a period of about two years. Researchers used in-vehicle cameras and other equipment to track the drivers’ eye movements, especially the amount of time their eyes were closed. When one of the vehicles reported a crash, specialists reviewed the cameras’ data and ran PERCLOS calculations, which are a special method for calculating a driver’s drowsiness and inattention.
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Overall, the investigators found that 8.5–9.5% of all the collisions that occurred during the study period involved drowsy drivers. In addition, they found that drowsiness played a role in an even higher percentage of serious crashes — almost 11%.
Notably, these numbers match up with previous studies that used computer modeling to estimate the frequency of drowsy driving in car crashes.
“Studies have repeatedly shown that if you’ve been awake for 20 hours and get behind the wheel, it’s the same as driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that’s over the legal limit.”
Drowsy Driving Can Cause the Same Impairment Level as Drunk Driving
Driver fatigue can cause you to drive like you’re drunk: you suffer short-term memory loss, your attention span shrinks, and your responses get delayed. Studies have repeatedly shown that if you’ve been awake for 20 hours and get behind the wheel, it’s the same as driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that’s over the legal limit.
According to one study, even mild sleep deprivation can increase your risk of a car wreck significantly, and sleeping only five or six hours per night almost doubles your likelihood of crashing. And if you sleep for less than four hours a night on average, your risk for a crash is 11.5 times higher than that of a fully-rested driver.
What You Should Do When a Drowsy Driver Hits You
After a serious car or truck crash, your priority should always be your safety and well-being. Call 911 and cooperate with the police investigation. And seek medical attention for your injuries, even if they don’t seem life-threatening.
If possible, you should also start collecting evidence that can support your claim. Take pictures of the crash site and any skid marks that you see. Identify witnesses who saw the crash or the events that preceded it. And as soon as you’re safe and have received the medical treatment you need, contact a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer for help.
Because drowsy driving is underreported, it’s unlikely that the official accident report will document whether fatigue played a role in the crash. Instead, you’ll need a lawyer’s help to uncover evidence that demonstrates the driver’s level of drowsiness. This evidence might include:
- Cellular phone, GPS, and telemetric data
- Receipts from gas stations, restaurants, and rest stops that document the driver’s time on the road
- Deposition testimony
- Driving logs, if you were hit by a semi truck, bus, or other commercial vehicle
While Texas law doesn’t prohibit the average person from driving while fatigued, commercial truck drivers are bound by federal hours-of-service rules that are designed to prevent drowsy driving. If a truck driver violates these rules and causes a wreck, your attorney can translate this into powerful evidence which can help your claim.
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However, it’s important to act quickly after a crash. Over time, witnesses and evidence become harder to locate. For example, trucking companies only have to retain driver logs for six months. After those six months run out, most companies automatically destroy their logs unless an injury lawyer has sent a formal letter demanding the logs be saved.
You also must meet Texas’ statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If you don’t file a lawsuit within two years of the crash, the court can automatically dismiss your claim, and you’ll lose your right to compensation. If you have questions or concerns about the Texas statute of limitations, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Crosley Law Investigates Drowsy Driver Crashes and Demands Justice for Car Accident Victims
At Crosley Law, we carefully investigate collisions and consult with respected experts, including crash reconstruction specialists, to uncover all the causes behind each wreck. To learn more about how we may be able to help you if you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, contact us for a free consultation. You can reach us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or by completing our online form.
Lamond, N., & Dawson, D. (2002, January 5). Quantifying the performance impairment associated with fatigue. Journal of Sleep Research, 8, 255-262. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2869.1999.00167.x
Owens, J.M., Dingus, T.A., Guo, F., Fang, Y., Perez, M., McClafferty, J., & Tefft, B.C. (2018, February). Prevalence of drowsy driving crashes: Estimates from a large-scale naturalistic driving study. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved from http://aaafoundation.org/prevalence-drowsy-driving-crashes-estimates-large-scale-naturalistic-driving-study/
Tefft, B.C. (2016, December). Acute sleep deprivation and risk of motor vehicle crash involvement. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved from http://aaafoundation.org/acute-sleep-deprivation-risk-motor-vehicle-crash-involvement/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.