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Drowsy drivers in Washington put themselves, others at risk

Drowsiness may hinder motorists’ ability to safely operate their vehicle, which may lead to collisions resulting in serious injuries, or death.

Motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries and death are all too common in Washington, and throughout the U.S. There are a number of factors, which may contribute to causing such crashes, including alcohol intoxication and distractions. Often overlooked, however, is the danger posed by drowsy drivers. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 21 percent of fatal collisions across the country involve a drowsy driver. In many cases, it is not only the fatigued drivers who are injured or killed; other motorists and their passengers are also frequently affected.

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

As a result of drowsiness, fatigue and sleep deprivation, motorists' ability to safely operate their vehicles may be hindered. The National Sleep Foundation reports that one study found those who have been awake for at least 18 hours may experience a similar level of impairment to those who have a blood alcohol content level of .05 percent. In Washington, and other localities, motorists with a BAC level of .08 are legally considered intoxicated.

Most people understand the potential dangers of falling asleep while driving. Simply being drowsy or fatigued while behind the wheel can also be hazardous, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, motorist may experience delayed reaction times, impaired decision-making and reduced attentiveness as a result of being drowsy. Due to these effects, drowsy drivers may have an increased likelihood of causing serious car accidents.

What causes drowsy driving?

There are numerous factors, which may contribute to drowsy driving, and thus, motor vehicle collisions. These may include failing to get enough rest and sleep loss. Additionally, the use of sedating medications, such as sleep aids, may cause motorists to be drowsy while driving. People's driving patterns, including when they are traveling and for how long they have been driving, also commonly contribute to sleep deprived driving.

Who is at risk for fatigued driving?

Generally, all motorists who do not get adequate sleep, or who are sleep deprived, may be at risk for drowsy driving. There are certain groups, however, which may have a greater risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people who have untreated sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy, may be more likely to drive while drowsy. Additionally, shift workers may have an increased threat due to their long, and sometimes irregular, work hours. Young people, particularly young men, also have a heightened risk for driving while fatigued.

Working with an attorney

When people in Seattle, and elsewhere, suffer injuries in crashes involving drowsy drivers, they often require medical treatment. For many, this leads to undue medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages. Depending on the circumstances of the collisions, however, the fatigued drivers may be held liable for such damages. Therefore, those who have experienced situations such as this may benefit from seeking legal counsel. An attorney may explain their rights, and help them to understand their options for pursuing financial compensation.