Most of us have been in a situation in which a sudden sensation of drowsiness overtakes us when we are behind the wheel. When you have a long journey or have not had the chance to rest enough, it can be tempting to push on through so that you may reach your destination. But before you make this decision, there are several crucial facts and figures to be very aware of that links drowsy driving to road traffic accidents.
The Real Cost of Drowsy Driving
It will probably come as no surprise that drowsy driving can lead to serious road traffic accidents. Unfortunately, however, most people are not aware of just how large the proportion of total automobile accidents occur as a result of drivers that drift off when in control of a vehicle.
The most conservative estimates posit that driver fatigue is a central causal factor in at least 100,000 police-reported crashes annually. All in all, experts estimate that between 10% and 30% of road traffic accidents come as a result of driver drowsiness. In reality, we are probably looking at the higher end of this range when we consider how difficult it can be to prove that an accident has been caused by driver drowsiness given that there is no standardized test that is performed by highway patrols, such as in cases where drink- or drug-driving is suspected.
The social demographics that are most at risk of sleep-related accidents are young males, adults with young children, and shift workers. In addition, people who suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea are also at high risk of becoming involved in sleep-related crashes.
Studies carried out by the American Automobile Association (AAA) have found that people who sleep for fewer than seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a road traffic accident, whereas people who sleep for fewer than five hours a night are between four and five times more likely to crash. One of the main reasons for this is that lack of sleep can impair the body in a similar way to alcohol. For example, after 18 hours awake, cognitive impairment is thought to be commensurate with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.5 (0.10 after 24 hours awake). The law currently considers anyone with a BAC of over 0.8 to be legally over the limit.
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What to Do When I Feel Tired at the Wheel
If you feel tired at any point when you are driving, you have a responsibility to pull over and rest before carrying on to your destination. Ideally, find a spot to drink coffee or take refreshment, or take a nap to gather the forces you need to drive competently.
The law looks very dimly on cases where accidents have been provoked by drowsy driving. If you do happen to get involved in a crash, you should hire the services of an attorney who is experienced in litigating road traffic accidents right away to stand the best chance of success.