The Surprising Danger of Driving Drowsy

car wreck

New Yorkers, and drivers across the country, engage in many dangerous behaviors on the road. From distracted driving associated with texting and other mobile device usage to speeding and driving under the influence, a disturbing percentage of those on the road put themselves and others at risk. Extensive campaigns have been designed to warn us about distracted driving, and law enforcement works to eradicate drunk driving.

Lack of sleep doesn’t raise the type of response triggered by drunk drivers or those playing cell phone games on the road. Being short on sleep is becoming something of a cultural norm. That’s very bad news for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, because lack of sleep creates much greater danger on the road than most people realize.

Fatigued Drivers are Dangerous Drivers

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who have slept less than four hours during the previous 24 have a crash risk that is nearly nine times as high as that of drivers who slept between six and seven hours and 11.5 times as high as those who slept at least seven hours.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that only about 2% of adults sleep less than four hours each night. If that sets your mind at ease a bit, it’s time for some math. With 3,787,255 licensed drivers in NYC, that 2% rate translates to more than 75,000 high-risk, overtired drivers in the five boroughs. And, that number doesn’t take into account the many drivers sleeping more than four hours per night but getting less than a full night’s sleep—drivers whose crash risk is also elevated.

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Fatigued Driver Crash Statistics

The AAA Foundation data also revealed that drowsy drivers were involved in:

  • 7% of crashes in which one or more vehicles was towed from the scene
  • 13% of crashes resulting in at least one hospital admission, and
  • 16-21% of fatal crashes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), crashes resulting from driver sleepiness tend to be serious. These accidents often occur on highways where the speed limit is 55 mph or higher, and the driver often fails to take any measures to avoid the accident. The risk of death to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians is significantly increased for crashes occurring at higher speeds.

The Consequences of Driving While Tired

Fatigued driving is so dangerous that a bill before the New York legislature would make “driving while drowsy” a crime. Although there aren’t currently criminal penalties for driving while overtired, getting behind the wheel while impaired by lack of sleep is negligent. A person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident with a fatigued driver or has been hit by a car or truck driven by a person operating on little or no sleep may be entitled to compensation.

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Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

We can all identify with being overtired, and many of us have pushed ourselves beyond reasonable limits after a sleepless night. However, a person who chooses to get behind the wheel when his or her faculties are impaired by lack of sleep acts negligently, and is responsible for the injuries caused by that negligence.

If you have been injured by a fatigued driver or have lost a loved one because somebody decided to drive with compromised abilities, you owe it to yourself and your family to learn more about your rights. Just fill out the contact form on this page, or call 212-540-2987 to schedule a free consultation.

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