Sleep-Deprived Drivers a Traffic Safety Threat
In California, there are a number of dangerous behaviors that people may exhibit on the roads. Drunk driving, for example, is widely known as one of the most dangerous.
“There may be another driver behavior that is just as bad as drunk driving,” explained California car accident lawyer James Ballidis, “and that is fatigued or drowsy driving.”
In fact, as Reuters reports, a new French study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicated that both drunk drivers and drowsy drivers were at least twice as likely to cause a car accident as a sober, alert driver.
Reuters also indicated that four hours of sleep loss could impair a driver just as much as consuming a six-pack could. For a driver who misses an entire night, on the other hand, his or her sleep-deprived state would impair him or her as much as having a blood alcohol content of .19.
Although drowsy driving is dangerous, many people regularly take the wheel while sleep-deprived. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to conduct a widespread study of more than 147,000 people across 19 different states and Washington D.C. to learn more about the prevalence of drowsy driving. Their findings were disturbing.
The Prevalence of Drowsy Driving
The CDC study revealed that drowsy driving is a major public health issue and a serious hazard, reported The New York Times. The Times cited the 730 deadly car accidents in 2009 caused by drowsy driving as evidence of a widespread problem, as well as the 30,000 other crashes caused by drowsy drivers that took place during the same year that were not fatal.
The Times also outlined the results of the CDC study, the largest ever of its kind. According to the study, 4.2 percent of responding adult drivers indicated that they had nodded off or fallen asleep at least once in the past 30 days.
A review of the state-by-state CDC data indicates that the number of drowsy drivers in California was actually higher than this 4.2 percent average. In fact, of the 17,608 Californians who responded to the CDC’s phone survey, 601 reported that they had dozed off as they drove in the past 30 days. This is 4.8 percent of all California-based survey respondents.
The study also indicated that certain groups may be driving fatigued in greater numbers than others. For example, around 5 percent of drivers in the 18-44 age brackets admitted nodding off as compared to just 1.7 percent of drivers ages 65 and up. Men were more likely than women to fall asleep, and those who snored or who slept for shorter periods of time were also more prone to dozing behind the wheel.
A single fatigued driver who falls asleep could cause a major crash and, because a sleeping driver typically doesn’t swerve or brake, the crash is more likely to be high speed and/or head-on.
Holding Drowsy Drivers Accountable
The law makes some attempt to curb drowsy driving by imposing maximum drive-time limits for drivers of commercial vehicles. Commercial drivers must keep logs and take breaks at designated intervals. It is difficult or impossible to impose these types of limitations or requirements on drivers of passenger cars. As such, it is complicated, if not impossible, to create effective legislation to stop drowsy driving.
Further exacerbating the challenge of curbing drowsy driving is the fact that a driver who causes a crash because he or she is tired might not necessarily admit to drowsy driving. There is no test for fatigue like there is for blood alcohol content, so attributing a crash to drowsy driving could prove difficult.
Despite the absence of general laws prohibiting drowsy driving, the behavior can still be considered unreasonably reckless or careless. As such, a person injured in a drowsy driving accident could take legal action and file a civil suit against the driver who caused the crash.
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