According to a new report on drowsy from the Governors Highway Safety Association, entitled “Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do About It.”, incidents involving tired drivers are far too common, leading to thousands of deaths and costs of more than $100 billion every year. Despite this, safety officials largely ignore or neglect the problem, largely because diagnosing the problem is difficult. In many cases, drowsy driving crashes most often involve a single car and driver and the cause is harder to determine because there are fewer common physical signs than with DUI, where a tell-tale odor or physical characteristics can help guide officers as to what to look for.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving was cited by police in at least 72,000 crashes between 2009 and 2013, resulting in more than 40,000 injuries and 800 deaths. However, researchers analyzed crashes in which vehicles were towed from the scene and noted that the role of drowsiness was unknown in at least half of those cases and difficult to determine in others. This analysis led them to conclude that drowsiness actually causes an average of 328,000 crashes per year, with 109,000 injuries and more than 6,000 fatalities. They also estimated that the cost of drowsy driving crashes, including insurance, medical expenses, and lost productivity, totaled $109 billion last year.
The report also noted that the risks associated with drowsy driving are remarkably similar to DUI, with drivers demonstrating an inability to watch the road carefully, slower reaction times, more frequent eye closure and failure to pay attention. Also, too many of them occasionally even nod off behind the wheel. A driver who has been awake for at least 18 hours is comparable to someone with a 0.05% BAC level. After being awake 21 hours, they resemble a driver with a 0.08% BAC, which is defined as drunk driving in all states.
The report notes that, in a AAA Foundation survey of 2,545 people taken in 2015, 31.5 percent of drivers acknowledged driving while having trouble staying awake during the previous month, and 43.2 percent acknowledged having nodded off behind the wheel at least once in their lives.
It is clear that someone has to do something to alleviate this problem. Only two states, New Jersey and Arkansas, have laws that penalize drowsy drivers who injure or kill someone, although several others are considering more criminal penalties. Some states, including Texas, try to educate drivers to the dangers. Overall, however, the problem lies with the drivers themselves. Drivers must get plenty of rest before driving long distances and they have to learn to pull over when they feel tired and not wait until the problem becomes overwhelming.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in an accident on a Texas roadway and you believe the driver responsible for the accident was drowsy at the time, especially if they were driving a commercial vehicle, where the rules against driving too long are very strict, please contact the Auto and Truck Accident Lawyer at the Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can investigate the accident and help you protect your rights under the law. All initial consultations are free and we won’t charge anything until we win your case.