Drowsy driving is a serious behavior that causes more than 71,000 personal injuries and 1500 fatalities every year. According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is a factor in as many as 100,000 crashes annually. These accidents are responsible for upwards of $71 billion in damages including medical expenses, funeral costs, property damage, and lost wages. This makes drowsy driving just as dangerous and costly as driving drunk.
Factors That Can Cause Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving can be caused by a wide variety of factors. These include sleep deprivation and consumption of alcohol, as well as the use of sleeping medication, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Each of these factors can significantly undermine a motorist’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle because they cause drivers to lose focus on the road and diminish reaction time while driving.
Those who are at greatest risk for driving while drowsy include younger male drivers between the ages of 16-29, night-shift workers, and those who suffer from chronic sleep apnea. For drivers who sleep less than 5 hours per night, the risk of having a drowsy driving accident is increased by five times the rate of those who get a full night’s rest.
The Dangers of Driving Drowsy
A driver traveling at 55 mph will travel more than the length of a football field in a matter of seconds. Even a momentary lapse of awareness of the road at this distance can lead to an automobile accident. According to the National Sleep Foundation, staying awake for 18 straight hours has the same impact on a driver’s ability to focus and operate a motor vehicle as having a blood alcohol level of .10 or greater.
Individuals who are drowsy have diminished reflexes, diminished attention spans, and reduced capacity to respond to changing road conditions and any obstructions that may be present in the roadway. Moreover, individuals who are drowsy may over correct while driving and cause secondary accidents including running off the roadway, colliding with parked vehicles, and striking pedestrians.
An auto accident lawyer in Illinois can help individuals who have been injured by a drowsy driver. Illinois statutes allow individuals injured by drowsy drivers to pursue damages for property damage, medical expenses, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and lost wages. For those who have lost loved ones due to a drowsy driver, state statutes also allow for the pursuit of funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and loss of lifetime earning capacity.