Drowsy driving is nearly the same as driving drunk, according to several studies. Thousands of people are injured or killed each year by fatigued drivers.
It is a fact of life that many Americans are sleep-deprived on a regular basis. Not only is this bad for one’s health, but getting too little sleep can be deadly when combined with motor vehicle traffic. Every year, thousands of people across the country, including in New York City, are killed in accidents attributed to drowsy driving.
How serious is the problem, exactly? According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 71,000 people are injured in accidents attributed to drowsy driving in the United States each year, and about 1,550 more are killed. In surveys, up to 60 percent of drivers admitted they had driven while drowsy during the past year, with 13 percent saying they do so on a regular basis.
WHAT HAVE RESEARCHERS FOUND OUT?
At least two studies have been conducted that shed light on this serious problem. When the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked into the issue, researchers determined that people who regularly get less than eight hours of sleep are two times more likely to be in a drowsy driving accident. Those who drive on less than five hours of sleep are up to five times more at risk of car crashes.
Drowsy driving has, in fact, been compared to drunk driving. Australian researchers found that those who drove after staying awake 18 hours had the same impairment risks as people with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. After being awake for 24 hours, the impairment equivalent rises to .10 percent, more than the legal limit in New York.
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SOME PEOPLE DRIVE DROWSY NEARLY ALL THE TIME
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain groups of people regularly drive while sleep-deprived, putting themselves and others at risk. These include the following:
• People who work late or overnight shifts
• Those who drive for extended stretches, including truck drivers
• Drivers who use medication that causes sleepiness
• People with untreated or undiagnosed sleep disorders
• High school and college students
Is there a legal way to address this problem? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, some states have adopted or are considering laws that penalize people who are caught driving drowsy or who have injured others in a sleep-related accident. Currently, a bill is pending in New York that would define driving while sleep-deprived as a class A misdemeanor, and killing someone in a drowsy driving accident as a class E felony.
If you are injured in an accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to advise you on the steps to take.