The recent tragic accident (6/7/2014) between a Walmart truck and a Mercedes limo bus containing Tracy Morgan and three others has drawn national attention to a largely ignored problem on the road . . . drivers falling asleep while driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. As tragic as these numbers are, they only tell a portion of the story. It is widely recognized that drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of crashes. Some states do not have sleep-deprived diving on their checklist of causes on crash reports.
The segment of the population most at risk are young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males, shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours, people with untreated sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) or narcolepsy, or people taking medications with sedating side affects. However, anyone can become drowsy or fall asleep behind the wheel. The purring sound of the motor, bright sunlight, or lack of stimulation at night, are all contributing factors. According to the National Sleep Foundation (DrowsyDriving.org), 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.
Some signs that indicate a driver should stop and rest:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
If you realize you are getting drowsy behind the wheel, pull over as soon as possible and take a nap. Drink a caffeinated beverage before driving off again. Do not risk your life and the lives of others by driving drowsy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous; however, being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you do not fall asleep. Drowsiness makes drivers less attentive, slows their reaction time, and affects their ability to make decisions.
Lawyer Jay L. Ciulla in Phoenix, Arizona helps people with accident, personal injury and wrongful death cases. Call 602 495 0053 for a free consultation.