Drowsy Driving Accidents: Causes & Liability

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With our busy lifestyles, it is easy to become overwhelmed and push ourselves to exhaustion. Unfortunately, too many Americans are choosing to exhaust themselves and then get behind the wheel. To raise awareness of drowsy driving and drowsy driving accidents, the National Sleep Foundation has designated November 6-13, 2016 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claim drowsy driving as the cause of approximately 100,000 police-reported traffic accidents every year. These drowsy drivers cause nearly 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries annually, with a cost of nearly $12.5 billion in economic losses.

Who is most likely to drive drowsy?

Men are more likely to drive while drowsy than women, and two times more likely to fall asleep while driving, reports the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 18- to 29-year-olds are most likely to drive drowsy.

How can I tell if I am driving drowsy?

Some of the signs of drowsy driving are:

  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open or excessive blinking
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
  • Drifting out of your lane or onto the shoulder of the road
  • Missing exits, turns, or traffic signals
  • Frequent yawning
  • Trouble keeping your head up

How does drowsy driving cause accidents?

Being in a fatigued or drowsy state while driving has a significant impact on your ability to safely operate your vehicle. A study by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research in Australia equated driving after being awake for 17 hours to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Being awake for 24 hours has similar effects to a BAC of 0.10, 0.02 over the legal limit of intoxication.

A state of fatigue of drowsiness can cause impairments like:

  • Inability to pay attention
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble keeping your eyes open
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Difficulty processing information and making decisions
  • Forgetting where you are going or spacing out

How can I prevent myself from causing a drowsy driving accident?

The first step to ending drowsy driving is to get a good night's sleep. The NSF suggests adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night to be well rested and alert enough to drive. Getting only six hours of sleep can triple your risk of a drowsy driving accident, and the more hours you miss, the greater your risk will become.

After learning the signs of drowsy driving mentioned above, you need to learn to take action to correct those signs. Learn how to identify signs of drowsy driving in yourself or the driver of the vehicle you are in and, when necessary, take a break. Even a 15- or 20-minute nap can be enough to "recharge" your brain and boost your energy and attentiveness enough to drive.

Another great way to stop the risk of drowsy driving is to drive with a partner. This tip is especially important for long trips; you want to switch drivers every few hours and take regular stops every 100 miles or two hours of driving time.

Do not rely on caffeine as a long-term solution to drowsy driving. Using caffeine as an occasional boost is okay, but heavy consumption can lead to sleep problems and even more impaired driving abilities after the caffeine wears off.

How can I determine liability for a drowsy driving accident?

If the drowsy driver violated a traffic law such as running a stop sign or his vehicle drifted into your lane and caused a collision, he is likely the at-fault driver. However, liability can be difficult to prove.

If you are involved in an accident with a drowsy driver, know that Max Meyers Law is here to help. We take the time to listen to your entire story before we start a full investigation of the cause of the crash. Working with experts in accident reconstruction and medical fields, we develop the evidence necessary to identify the at-fault party and seek a fair settlement for your damages.

If a drowsy driver caused serious injury to yourself or a loved one, call to schedule a free consultation with Seattle accident attorney Max Meyers.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.