Lexington, KY Drowsy Driving Accident Attorney

Drowsy Driving Endangers All of Us on the Road

Drivers who are half asleep behind the wheel are a hazard to themselves and everyone else on Kentucky’s roads. Small cars can range from about 2,000 pounds and a fully loaded tractor trailer can tip the scales at about 80,000 pounds. Vehicles this size going at any speed, but especially at highly speeds, not fully under control by drowsy drivers, are potential motorized battering rams ready to hit someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We are told we should get seven to nine hours of sleep a day. Teenagers and those dealing with health issues should get more. But the reality is, too few of us get the rest we need. Whether it’s because of a stressful life, long work hours, family members to care for or drug or alcohol abuse, many of us make it through the day not fully awake, including when we drive our vehicles.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates:

  • About 18% of adults in the United States sleep for less than 7 hours in any given 24-hour period, and
  • 2% sleep for less than four hours.

The National Sleep Foundation determined that those who have slept for two hours or less within a 24 hour period are not safe to drive a vehicle. Depending on the number of hours slept, a drowsy driver is about as dangerous as one who is drunk.

Exact figures for accidents caused by drowsy driving are not yet possible, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Crash investigators look for clues that drowsiness may have contributed to driver error, and researchers use different methods to estimate the number of accidents caused by driver drowsiness. Based on the best information from NHTSA:

  • In 2014 there were 846 fatalities (2.6% of all fatalities) in NHTSA’s database that were related to drowsy drivers.
  • These fatalities, and drowsy-driving accidents in general, have remained largely the same over the past decade.
  • From 2005 to 2009 there were an estimated average of 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving.
  • This includes nearly 886 crashes involving fatalities (2.5% of all fatal crashes) and an estimated 37,000 accidents causing injuries.

Crashes caused by drowsy driving often have similar characteristics:

  • They most frequently happen between midnight and 6:00 a.m. or late in the afternoon when there’s a drop in the circadian rhythm (the internal clock that regulates sleep).
  • They often involve a single vehicle with no passengers, which runs off a rural road or highway at high speed with no signs of braking.

Studies have shown that insufficient sleep results in slower reactions and lapses in attention. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research estimate that drowsy driving plays a role in:

  • 7% of crashes resulting in a vehicle being towed from a scene,
  • 13% of accidents resulting in hospital admissions, and
  • 16-21% of all fatal crashes.

The foundation released a study in 2016 quantifying the link between amounts of sleep and the risk of accident-involvement in the general driving population. They looked at data from NHTSA and an assessment of how much sleep a driver involved in an accident got 24 hours before each crash, as well as the driver’s normal daily amount of sleep and whether he or she had changed their sleep schedule before the accident.

Researchers found a significantly increased crash risk for drivers who slept for less than seven hours in the past 24 hours and for one or more hours less than they normally sleep, no matter how many hours that normal sleep was.

Drivers who reported they normally sleep four to five hours per day had 5.4 times the crash rate of those who normally sleep for at least seven hours each day.

Compared to those who stated they had slept at least seven hours in the past 24 hours, drivers who reported they had slept,

  • Less than 4 hours had 11.5 times the crash rate,
  • Four to five hours had 4.3 times the crash rate,
  • Five to six hours had 1.9 times the crash rate, and
  • Six to seven hours had 1.3 times the crash rate.

Compared to drivers reporting they slept at least their normal amount in the past 24 hours, drivers who stated they slept,

  • Four or more hours less than usual had 10.2 times the crash rate,
  • Three to four hours less than usual had 2.1 times the crash rate,
  • Two to three hours less than usual had 3.0 times the crash rate, and
  • One to two hours less than usual had 1.3 times the crash rate.

The estimated crash risk due to driving after four to five hours of sleep compared with seven or more hours is similar to the NHTSA’s estimates of the crash risk of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) the same as or slightly over the legal limit for alcohol in the U.S. (0.08), and the crash risk of sleeping less than four hours is similar to the crash risk of driving with a BAC of roughly 0.12-0.15.

As hectic or difficult as our lives are, we need to set aside enough time to get good sleep. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity for our health, normal functioning, and safety, whether that’s driving a car across town or across the state. If someone acts negligently and chooses to drive while drowsy or falls asleep behind the wheel, causing injuries or deaths to others, that person can be held accountable with a personal injury lawsuit.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a vehicle accident caused by a drowsy driver or one who fell asleep while driving, you need to know your rights and seek legal protection. You can bet the insurance company knows what to do to keep you from getting fair compensation. We can help. Call Julie Butcher, the Lexington, KY Vehicle Accident Lawyer at 859-233-3641 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.