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Drowsy Driving: How Losing Sleep Impacts Drivers


Whether due to stress, the demands of being a parent, or work and school schedules that keep you burning the midnight oil, a lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your driving abilities. Car accidents caused by fatigued drivers have become increasingly common, causing serious and potentially life threatening injuries. The following shows how drowsy driving impacts driving skill and what you should do to stay awake behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving Facts is a website sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) to address the dangers caused by driving while excessively tired or fatigued. Studies show less than 10 percent of us get the required eight hours of sleep we need each night to stay healthy and alert, and a lack of sleep is an increasing factor in car accidents and injuries.

The NSF states that an estimated 100,000 driver reported accidents are due to drowsy driving each year, resulting in as many as 71,000 deaths and 1,550 injuries. The actual number is likely significantly higher but unlike drunk driving, there is no breathalyzer to record exactly when drowsy driving occurs. Those most at risk for engaging in drowsy driving include new parents, shift workers, college students, and patients diagnosed with sleep apnea and other related sleep disorders.

A lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your driving ability, mirroring the effects of alcohol. Reflexes and reactions times are diminished, and judgement is likely to be impaired. Dangerous driving behaviors that are likely to be more common when driving while tired include:

  • Speeding and going too fast for conditions;
  • Driving distracted and disregarding traffic signs and signals;
  • Weaving in and out of lanes in traffic;
  • Running red lights and stops signs.

Staying Awake When Driving

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), getting even one hour less than the recommended eight hours of sleep increases your car accident risks and can impact your driving ability in the same way as having one or two drinks would. Getting only four or five hours of sleep at night is similar to driving drunk and puts you at more than four times your normal risk for an accident.

Similar to alcohol, when you are tired drinking several cups of coffee, turning on the radio, or having the windows open is not likely to make driving any safer. The only way to truly reduce your risk is by getting enough sleep. AAA recommends the following:

  • Make getting at least seven hours of sleep a night a priority;
  • On long drives, make frequent stops and enlist another driver;
  • If you feel yourself starting to fall asleep, pull over immediately.

If you have been injured in an accident due to a drowsy driver, contact Gregg Wexler right away. We can assist you in gathering evidence needed to support your claim, so you can get the compensation you are entitled to. Call or contact our office online and request a free, no obligation consultation with our experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorneys today.


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