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How Common is Drowsy Driving?

The short answer is – drowsy driving is far more common than most people believe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), driving while drowsy or fatigued is responsible for more than 70,000 crashes and more than 40,000 injuries each year. That said, drivers who are involved in vehicle crashes are often reluctant to admit to drowsiness, which means that the actual numbers which show up on a police report are most likely vastly underreported. The CDC believes that drowsy driving may actually be responsible for up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Although drowsy driving does not receive nearly the amount of attention as other poor driving behaviors such as drunk driving and distracted driving, it can still be very deadly, and it happens a lot more often than most of us realize. One of the things that makes driving while drowsy so dangerous is that people don’t know the exact moment that sleep overcomes their body. This is true whether you are in bed, on a couch, or at the wheel.

Clearly, falling asleep at the wheel is the worst possible result when someone is driving while drowsy, but even if that does not happen, the effects of drowsiness can still be disastrous. When someone is drowsy behind the wheel, all of their focus is required just to stay awake, making them less able to pay attention to the road. Drowsy drivers also have slower reaction times, and if an adverse situation requires them to steer or hit the brake suddenly, they may not be able to do so in time to avoid a crash.

The CDC reports that an estimated one out of every 25 adult drivers admit to having fallen asleep while driving within the past 30 days. Another study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of those who responded to their poll have driven while feeling sleepy within the past year, and 37% admit that they have fallen asleep at the wheel. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that drowsy driving costs our economy approximately $12.5 billion each year.

Who is Most Likely to Drive While Drowsy?

As the National Sleep Foundation poll shows, a majority of people have driven when they were sleepy or fatigued, and this can happen to anyone who does not get enough sleep. Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and teens should get at least eight hours. Studies show that those who sleep six hours or fewer each night and/or those who snore are most at risk for drowsy driving.

In addition to those who do not get enough sleep, there are some specific groups who are particularly susceptible to driving while drowsy or fatigued:

  • Young Men: Men who are in their teens, 20s, and 30s are most likely to drive when they are tired and sleepy, and this behavior usually occurs during late evening and overnight hours.
  • Shift Workers: Individuals who work long shifts and rotating shifts that often include evenings and overnights make up another group that is at risk of drowsy driving.
  • Commercial Drivers: Tow truck drivers, bus drivers, and drivers of tractor-trailers are often on the road for long hours without taking a break. This makes them more likely to get sleepy behind the wheel.
  • Individuals with Untreated Sleep Disorders: People with sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or other sleep disorders that are not treated tend to get sleepier during the day when they are out driving.
  • Individuals who use Sleep-Inducing Medications: Many medications that individuals are given to treat various conditions cause sleepiness as a side effect. Those who take these types of medications need to be aware of this before getting behind the wheel.
  • Frequent Travelers: Those who travel frequently from one time zone to another have difficulty adjusting their bodies to a proper sleep schedule. Individuals in this category may include business travelers and over-the-road truckers.

Injured in Drowsy Driving Accident in South Carolina? Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

If you or someone close to you suffered injury at the hands of a drowsy driver, you deserve to be fully compensated. The insurance company for the other side is not likely to give you a fair offer, however, and it is important to at least speak with a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer, so you understand your rights and options.

If the accident occurred in South Carolina, contact Peake & Fowler for assistance. Message us online or call our Columbia, SC office today at 803-788-4370 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!

Drowsy Driving and Truck Accidents

Truck drivers have a difficult and stressful job. They drive for long hours over-the-road, and they are frequently under pressure to deliver their loads on schedule. With these types of conditions, many truckers stay on the road longer than they should, making them susceptible to fatigue, drowsy driving, and even falling asleep at the wheel.

The Drowsy Driving Problem in the U.S.

Drowsy driving is generally defined as driving with the combination of fatigue and sleepiness. This can be caused by driving without having enough sleep. But it can also happen because of alcohol, various medications, too many repetitive hours on the road, and untreated sleep disorders. Drowsiness adversely affects drivers in several ways:

  • Inhibits drivers’ ability to pay attention to the road;
  • Slows driver reaction time;
  • Causes drivers to make poor driving decisions.

Driving while drowsy is a major problem in the United States, and it is far more widespread than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • One out of 25 drivers (18 years of age or older) report having fallen asleep at the wheel during the past 30 days;
  • Drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 72,000 crashes each year, and up to 6,000 of these crashes are fatal;
  • Commercial drivers (such as operators of tow trucks, 18-wheelers, and buses) and those who drive long shifts are among the groups most likely to drive while drowsy.

Drowsy Driving and Trucking Accidents

Because of their sheer weight and size, large commercial vehicles are the most dangerous vehicles that can be involved in a drowsy driving accident. Truck accidents can result in serious and catastrophic injuries and fatalities, and most often, occupants of other vehicles are the ones who suffer the most severe injuries.

According to a Harvard School of Medicine Study, nearly half of semi-truck drivers who participated in the study admitted to having drifted off while driving a long-haul route. Researchers have found that driving while drowsy produces similar affects to driving while intoxicated, and with drowsy driving so widespread among truckers, it puts countless other motorists who share the road with them in serious danger.

Why are Truckers more Susceptible to Drowsy Driving?

Sleepiness and fatigue can happen to anyone who is out driving. Truck drivers are especially at risk for driving drowsy, however, because of the nature of their job. Truckers frequently drive during overnight hours when it is easy to dose off; and as mentioned earlier, they are often under enormous pressure to deliver their cargo on time. While a typical driver who is tired can pull into a rest stop and sleep for a while, a trucker may not have that luxury, because obtaining a few hours of well-needed sleep might mean throwing your schedule way off.

To address the issue of long hours on the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hours of service guidelines that all over-the-road truckers must adhere to. For example, commercial truck drivers that carry cargo may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours being off duty. Unfortunately, these and other safety guidelines are frequently ignored by drivers who are pushed to meet deadlines and/or incentivized to deliver their cargo ahead of schedule.

When a trucker ignores government regulations and a truck accident occurs because of drowsy driving, it is important that those responsible are held fully accountable. These types of cases can be complicated, however, and it can be difficult to determine whether liability lies with the driver or the trucking company. This depends largely on the relationship between the two.

If a driver is a direct employee of a trucking company, then it is pretty clear that the employer can be held responsible. If the driver is classified as a subcontractor, however, then the case requires further investigation. There are times when a driver meets the criteria for being an employee but is misclassified as a subcontractor, so the trucking company can avoid responsibility for the driver’s actions.

Speak with a Skilled South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a trucking accident, you need an experienced attorney by your side who understands the complexities of these types of cases and what it takes to obtain a favorable result even against well-funded adversaries. At Peake & Fowler, we have successfully represented truck accident injury victims in South Carolina since 2000. We work closely with clients, thoroughly investigating their cases and exploring every potential legal avenue toward obtaining full compensation. For a free consultation with one of our seasoned personal injury attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.