Is drowsy driving as dangerous as drunk driving?

Drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving, and those who are too tired to drive may cause serious and even fatal car accidents.

Many people in West Virginia realize that driving after consuming alcohol is hazardous to themselves and others on the road with them. However, many people do not recognize the dangers of drowsy driving, or realize that in many cases, it can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, being awake for an 18-hour period and then driving is comparable to operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content level of 0.05. Additionally, those who drive after being awake for a full 24 hours experience the same effect as driving a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.10.

The scope of the problem

Many adults in the U.S. have driven while they were too fatigued to do so, and many have also fallen asleep behind the wheel. The NSF states that 60 percent of driving adults in the U.S. have driven drowsy, and approximately one-third of people have fallen asleep while driving. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2013, drowsy driving was responsible for 800 deaths, 44,000 injuries and 72,000 motor vehicle accidents. However, the organization believes these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal car accidents every year are the result of fatigued driving.

Signs of drowsy driving

In some cases, drivers ignore the signs that they are too tired to drive and continue driving. Some of these signs include the following:

  • Drifting between lanes
  • Hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road
  • Trouble remembering the past few miles driven
  • Missing important exits or turns
  • Frequent yawning and blinking

When people drive drowsy, they are less able to pay attention to the road in front of them and they experience slowed reaction times when the need to brake or steer suddenly arises. Drowsy drivers also have a harder time making good driving decisions behind the wheel.

Drivers at risk

Although any one is at risk of drowsy driving, there are a few key groups of people who are most likely to engage in this dangerous activity. These include shift workers, or those who work overnight, commercial drivers, drivers with an untreated sleep disorder and those who take medications that cause drowsiness.

Drivers in West Virginia who are involved in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver may experience significant injuries as well as emotional and financial harm. Those who were harmed in any way by a negligent driver should contact an attorney in their area who can help them ensure their legal rights are protected.