Washington State’s Drowsy Driving Problem

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Drowsy driving is a huge problem in the State of Washington and in the United States as a whole. This is largely due to the fact that many people underestimate how dangerous drowsy driving can be. Many people do not know that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Learn more about the problem and how Washington State is trying to fix it here.

What do the statistics say?

More than 1,300 drivers and motorcycle riders were involved in fatal drowsy driving crashes in the United States in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) believes this number is a bit higher; the NSF claims about 6,400 people die in drowsy driving crashes each year. The NSF also reports that approximately 100,000 accidents and 71,000 injuries result from drowsy driving each year.

However, it is likely this number is much higher than even the HSF’s estimations because there is no physical test, such as a Breathalyzer, to determine whether a driver was fatigued at the time of collision.

Washington State Drowsy Driving Statistics

In the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) 2014 Annual Collision Summary, 2,745 accidents resulted from a fatigued, asleep, or ill driver. Twenty-three of these collisions were fatal; more than 1,110 resulted in injuries.

However, just as with the national statistics, it is likely this number is much higher. Drowsy driving can present in other ways that you might never have considered. For example, drowsy driving can cause negligent behaviors such as the following:

  • Distracted driving
  • Following too closely
  • Going over the center line
  • Failure to yield right-of-way to a motor vehicle
  • Disregarding signals (e.g., stop signs, red lights, yield signs, turn signals, etc.)
  • Failure to yield right-of-way to pedestrians or bicyclists


This could lead to thousands more accidents that WSDOT never attributed to drowsy driving.

Is drowsy driving as dangerous as other types of negligent driving?

Now you know drowsy driving causes its fair share of accidents, but did you know that going 18 hours without sleep has the same effect as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08.

Getting behind the wheel with too little sleep is the same as driving legally drunk.

How common is drowsy driving?

A survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that more than 20 percent of fatal accidents involve a drowsy driver.

At least one-third of respondents admitted to having fallen asleep at some point in their lives and 10 percent of survey respondents admitted to falling asleep while driving in the last year.

People drive drowsy every day; however, unless a driver falls asleep, s/he might not have any idea of how fatigued s/he is.

What is Washington State doing to protect residents from drowsy driving accidents?

Washington State is well aware that it has a problem with drowsy driving. In an attempt to raise awareness and stop drowsy drivers from getting behind the wheel, Governor Jay Inslee declared November 6-13 of 2016 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

But that is not all; did you know drowsy driving is illegal in Washington State? If you fall asleep behind the wheel, officers will issue you a ticket for negligent driving and fine you $550.

What can I do if I was injured in a drowsy driving accident?

Many people do not think twice about getting behind the wheel when they did not get enough sleep. However, if they cause an accident because they were too tired to operate a vehicle safely, they can be liable for any accidents and injuries they cause.

Proving liability in a drowsy driving crash is often very difficult, but Max Meyers can help. Max can investigate the accident, build your case, and negotiate with insurers to get you the compensation you need and deserve after a drowsy driving accident.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a drowsy driving crash in the Kirkland area, call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case: 425-399-7000

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