Drowsy driving responsible for thousands of deaths each year

A number of recent studies are highlighting just how deadly drowsy driving is and what can be done about it.

While public safety campaigns often focus on the dangers of impaired driving and texting and driving, a number of recent studies suggests that drowsy driving is a safety hazard that warrants far more attention than it currently receives. According to KIRO 7 News, drowsy driving is widespread across the country and is responsible for an estimated 5,000 deaths in 2015 alone. Furthermore, drowsy driving car accidents are a problem that disproportionately affect younger drivers. Safety experts point out that driving without getting enough sleep can result in behavior similar to being impaired by alcohol.

Thousands of deaths

The fact is that it is difficult to know for sure just how many people are killed and injured in drowsy driving crashes each year. While the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that drowsy driving killed 5,000 people last year, the AAA Foundation says that annual fatalities caused by drowsy driving are actually closer to 6,400. The wide discrepancies, as USA Today notes, are because in many cases it can be difficult to determine if a driver involved in a serious accident fell asleep. Furthermore, many drivers who drive while sleepy may not want to admit having done so.

Nonetheless, the estimates alone suggest that drowsy driving is a major safety problem. Another AAA study found that close to a third of drivers admitted to driving while having trouble keeping their eyes open in the past month. Furthermore, over 43 percent of drivers say they have nodded off while driving at least once in their lives.

Young drivers most affected

It appears as though younger drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash linked to drowsy driving. The Governors Highway Safety Association, for example, estimates that half of all drowsy driving crashes across the country involve drivers who are 25 or younger. It is possible that younger drivers underestimate the dangers of drowsy driving. Going 21 hours without sleep, for example, can lead to behavior impairment that mimics the behavior of somebody with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration - the legal driving limit in all states.

Some states are taking drowsy driving so seriously that they have introduced new legal measures to crack down on tired motorists. New Jersey passed a law that adds extra penalties to drowsy drivers who injure or kill somebody. Arkansas has a similar law against drivers who fall asleep at the wheel, which has resulted in three conviction since being introduced in 2013.

Personal injury law

Drowsy driving is just another reminder of how dangerous the roads and highways can be for all motorists. For anybody who has been hurt by a negligent or reckless driver - including by a driver who may have fallen asleep at the wheel - it is important to get legal advice quickly. A personal injury attorney can help injured clients make sense of what options they have at their disposal and may be able to help them file claims for financial compensation.