Drowsy Driving Dangers & Statistics

Man yawning while driving
Posted: February 20, 2024

Some people may think they can drive drowsy because they can stay awake even when sleep deprived. But those who haven’t slept enough are still susceptible to lapse into a brief loss of consciousness lasting long enough to cause a crash. That is is just one reason why drowsy drivers are a hazard to themselves and others on the road. Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsiness adversely affects drivers’  

  • attention; 
  • reactions; and 
  • decisions. 

Alcohol, too, can affect motorists in these ways. According to some sources, a driver who’s slept only four or five hours instead of the recommended seven poses the same crash risk as one with a blood-alcohol level of .08—the legal limit in New York.  

The prevalence of drowsy driving 

Pinning down how many crashes are caused by drowsiness is difficult, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that every year there are almost 100,000 drowsy driving crashes each year. The number of estimated deaths from drowsy driving in 2021 was 684, according to NHTSA.  

According to a 2017 AAA study cited by the NHTSA, more than 40 percent of drivers got fewer than six hours of sleep a night. That’s one hour less than the minimum recommended, and that one hour can apparently make a big difference; drivers who sleep six hours are twice as likely to be in a crash, according to AAA. And drivers with fewer than four hours of sleep? Their odds of being in a crash rise exponentially, making them 11.5 times likelier to wreck. 

According to a 2012 AAA factsheet, drowsy driving was a factor in 

  • one in six fatal crashes; 
  • one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization; and 
  • one in fourteen crashes requiring a passenger vehicle’s being towed. 

The AAA factsheet also identifies that 

  • drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy-driving crash as those in the 40-to-59 age range; and 
  • Men were more likely to be involved in such crashes.  

Who’s at risk of drowsy driving? 

The truck driver who’d love to get a few more deliveries in to pad the paycheck. The cab driver eager to pick up a few more fares. The businessman putting in 14-hour days because of a major project.  

According to the New York State Department of Health, any driver is at risk of drowsy driving, but certain people may be at a higher risk of engaging in the dangerous behavior:  

  • Commercial drivers such as truckers and bus drivers 
  • People working long hours or late nights 
  • Those with sleep disorders 
  • New parents 
  • High school and college students 

The Department of Health warns to be careful if you catch yourself doing any of these things while driving or see another motorist doing any of them, as they may warn of drowsiness: 

  • Repeated yawning 
  • Squinting or eye-batting 
  • Tailgating or running traffic signals 
  • Swerving or drifting 

Stay alert behind the wheel 

The  Department of Health has issued guidelines and precautions that may reduce the incidence of drowsy driving accidents.  They include, but are not limited to:  

  • Get enough sleep.  
  • Stop to rest every 100 miles or two hours. 
  • Avoid driving at the peak drowsy times of 1-4 p.m. and 2-6 a.m.  
  • Don’t count on caffeine. It takes a while to take effect and wears off fast. 
  • Avoid medicines that make you drowsy. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol. 
  • Open the windows and turn up the radio 
  • Turn on the air conditioning. 
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep. 

Hurt by a drowsy driver? Call William Mattar. 

If you’ve been seriously injured by a drowsy driver while driving or walking, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages, but proving a driver caused an accident because of drowsiness can sometimes be difficult. If you’re considering seeking legal assistance, contact the experienced car accident attorneys at William Mattar, P.C.  for a free case review by filling out our online form or calling 844-444-4444. Our 24/7 legal team is always ready to help.   

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