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Drowsy Driving: 4.2 Percent of Americans Admit to Falling Asleep While Driving

Craig McClellan

Car accident statistics rarely tell the whole story. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that 2.5 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by drowsy driving. Other studies, which used different data-collection methods, found that drowsy drivers may have played a part in up to one third of all fatal car accidents.

Unlike drunk driving, drowsy driving is not easily measured. We must rely on a driver's own perception of his or her sleepiness in order to even begin to form statistical measurements. That is why the Centers for Disease Control has analyzed a 2009-2010 survey of 147,000 Americans in order to paint a clearer, and drear, picture of drowsy driving.

According to the survey, 4.2 percent of respondents admit to falling asleep while driving at least once during the month before the survey. Imagine how many drivers fall asleep on the road in one year! Of those drivers, the majority reported less than six hours of sleep, sleep apnea or other sleep-related problems.

How dangerous is driving drowsy?

Organizations like MADD have made it clear to us that driving drunk is dangerous, but few have tackled drowsy driving. Yet, research on the issue shows how dangerous driving drowsy really is. Drowsy driving:

  • Slows reaction time
  • Impairs decision-making skills
  • Reduces attention to driving

Furthermore, techniques that drivers might use to stay awake appear to be ineffective. Turning up the radio or opening your window will not reduce your chances of a drowsy driving accident. Instead, drivers must pull over and sleep.

While drowsy driving may not have the stigma that texting while driving and drunk driving carry, it can be just as dangerous, and drivers who cause accidents while driving drowsy should be held accountable for making poor decisions. Through a personal injury lawsuit, someone injured by a drowsy driver can hold an at-fault driver liable while recovering compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, loss of income and other damages.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, " Drowsy Driving -- 19 States and the District of Columbia, 2009-2010," Jan. 4, 2014