Asleep At The Wheel: The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

According to a new study, falling asleep at the wheel may be a much larger problem on our nation's roads than previously thought. The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation, analyzed ten years' worth of accident data, and found that drowsy driving was a factor in approximately one in six fatal crashes.

Two previous estimates of the impact of drowsy driving by other groups had put the drowsy driving death toll at 2.4 percent or 3.6 percent of fatal crashes, depending on the study. The new study looked at crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but arrived at a much higher figure, roughly 16.5 percent of all fatal crashes.

In addition to analyzing existing crash data, the study also asked a sampling of 2,000 drivers about their experiences with drowsy driving. Their answers may be surprising. Although nearly all drivers surveyed (96 percent) said it was unacceptable for someone to drive when they were having trouble keeping their eyes open, 27 percent of drivers admitted to having done just that within the past month. 41 percent reported having fallen asleep or nodded off while driving at least once in their lifetime.

The study also reported that drivers in the age range of 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59. In the survey, 30 percent of women reported having fallen asleep while driving at least once, much lower than the number of men (52 percent) who admitted having done so at some point in their lives.

The authors of the study report that the effect of drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving-impacting reaction time, judgment and vision. They suggest mid-afternoon naps if driving in the evening, traveling with an awake passenger and drinking a caffeinated beverage.

If you have been injured due to an accident with a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Please speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights and help you choose the best legal option for you based on the circumstances of your case.