According to government health officials, more than a third of drivers on the streets and highways are tired enough to cause a car accident. Even worse, more than 1 in 5 fatal crashes in the U.S. are caused by drowsy drivers. Where does Colorado rank? Colorado has the third most driving fatalities related to drivers falling asleep behind the wheel – only Wyoming and Vermont ranked higher. In particular, Highway 285 from Texas through Colorado was ranked the most dangerous with 18.09% of sleep-related driving deaths. Interstate 76 from Denver to southwest Nebraska was the second deadliest stretch.
While nearly every adult fails to get the recommended amount of sleep each and every night, those that routinely get too little sleep are the most dangerous when behind the wheel. The CDC estimates that 35% of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep daily.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who got less than 7 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period doubled their risk of getting into a serous car accident. Drivers that got less than 5 hours of sleep quadrupled their risk of getting into an accident. And drivers that got less than 4 hours of sleep were 11x more likely to get into a car accident.
Recent studies indicate that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. In fact, according to researchers in Australia, being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to being legally drunk. Drivers have decreased attention spans, low alertness, and decreased reaction times. They may miss motorcycles in the lane next to them, bicyclists on the road, or fail to stop at a stoplight.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 100,000 police-reported car accidents are due to drowsy drivers. These fatigued drivers caused 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Yet safety experts warn that these statistics are misleading since it is extremely difficult to attribute car accidents to sleepiness. Unlike drunk driving, there is no test that can determine sleepiness. In addition, two states (Missouri and Wisconsin) do not even have specific police codes for fatigue or drowsy driving. Drivers who fell asleep at the wheel or who were sleepy at the time of the accident are also less likely to state that in an official police report.
Who is at Risk for Sleep Related Car Accidents?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to drive while drowsy and men are almost 2x as likely as women to fall asleep while driving. Shift workers are also more likely to drive fatigued, as are new parents with a baby or a child in the house.
In the NSF’s 2000 poll, drivers became stressed and drove faster when they realized that they were getting drowsy. This can contribute to even worse car accidents. Only 1 in 5 drivers said that they routinely pulled over to nap when drowsy with younger drivers being the least likely to pull over and nap. Most sleep related crashes occurred midnight and 6 a.m.
Staying Safe – Don’t Drive Drowsy
In order to avoid a serious and fatal car accident, it is important not to drive while drowsy. Adult drivers can follow the following tips to avoid falling asleep at the wheel:
- Plan road trips ahead and do not plan on driving into the night
- Stop every 100 miles to stretch your legs
- Try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night
- Stop immediately when you recognize the signs of sleepiness
- Roll down the window to let fresh air in
- Bring a passenger along to help keep you awake
- Avoid driving after midnight
- Talk to your teenagers about the dangers of driving drowsy
Contact Our Denver Car Accident Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident and you believe a drowsy driver is to blame, it is important that you contact us immediately. Our Denver car accident lawyers have the skills and experience needed to tackle the tough cases. Contact the Gold Law Firm today for a free consultation at (303) 694-4653.