Every year in the U.S., there are approximately 328,000 car crashes involving a drowsy driver. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety formed this estimate and says that this is 350% higher than official statistics. Of these crashes, many of which take place in Wisconsin, an estimated 109,000 involve an injury, and 6,400 are fatal.
Fatigue raises the chances of a car crash three times. The reason lies in how it can affect a person’s ability to focus and slow down reaction times. A driver who is severely sleep-deprived may experience what’s called microsleep: four- or five-second involuntary bursts of inattention. At highway speed, a driver could travel the length of a football field during one of these bursts without knowing it.
In its effects, drowsy driving can be compared to drunk driving. In this state, a driver is legally drunk with a blood alcohol concentration of .08, but he or she can experience a similar level of impairment by going without sleep for 20 consecutive hours.
Adults need to sleep a minimum of seven hours a night. Besides this, though, there are several interventions that can be used to prevent drowsy driving. Parents can set up a drowsiness rule in their parent-teen driving agreements. Cars could be equipped with lane departure warning. Employers could create an off-the-job safety program addressing drowsiness.
Not all motor vehicle accidents can be prevented, of course, since the choice to travel drowsy lies with the driver. Those who are injured at the hands of a negligent driver may want to seek legal counsel as they may be able to file a claim against that driver’s auto insurance company. The lawyer may negotiate a settlement on their behalf.