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Drowsy Drivers Just As Dangerous As Drunk Drivers, Study Finds

Connecticut car accident attorney discusses dangers of tired drivers

Connecticut auto accident attorneyDrivers who don't get enough sleep can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers in many situations, according to a recent study. And even sleeping 1 to 2 hours less at night can significantly increase the odds of a driver causing a serious car accident.

But many people might not realize just how dangerous drowsy drivers can be on the road in Hartford or elsewhere in Connecticut. That's because many people have driven when they're tired and such accidents often seem like victimless crimes.

The reality is drivers have a choice. Instead of falling asleep at the wheel, drivers can choose to pull over and not drive when they're too tired. Instead, these drivers knowingly put everyone's safety at risk and end up causing serious accidents.

The less drivers sleep, the more dangerous they become

The AAA Foundation  (formerly known as the American Automobile Association) conducted a study which examined the effects of less sleep on drivers. The findings were startling. In the December 2016 study titled "Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement," researchers examined crash data involving 7,234 drivers involved in 4,571 accidents between July 2005 and December 2007.

Based on their analysis, researchers estimated that 1 in 5 fatal car accidents involved tired drivers. The risk of tired drivers causing an accident increased dramatically for every hour less of sleep the driver had during the previous 24 hours. Specifically, the study found that the risk of causing a motor vehicle accident increased by:

  • 3 times for drivers who slept 6 to 7 hours
  • 9 times for drivers who slept 5 to 6 hours
  • 3 times for drivers who slept 4 to 5 hours
  • 5 times for drivers who slept less than 4 hours

"You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk."

Drowsy drivers 'a problem' in Connecticut

Another recent study found that nearly 83.6 million people (39 percent of the nation's 214 million licensed drivers) drive while sleep deprived every single day, according to an August 2016 Connecticut Post article about a Governors Highway Safety Association study.

Each year, an estimated 6,000 people die nationwide in drowsy driving accidents, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and cited in a February 2017 Reuters article.

In Connecticut, 2,440 accidents (including four fatal ones) were caused by tired drivers between January 2015 and July 2016, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation as noted in the Connecticut Post article.

"It is a problem," Dr. Rock Ferrigno, chairman of Bridgeport Hospital's emergency department, said in the Connecticut Post article. "We do see patients who fall asleep while driving, or who drive while drowsy and get in accidents."

Connecticut officials expressed similar concerns. "The department, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, considers drowsy driving a concern, along with other more traditional driver behavior related traffic safety issues (impaired driving, etc.)," Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick wrote in an email quoted in the Connecticut Post article.

Time of day and other risk factors

Younger, tired drivers wreak havoc on the roads, often after midnight and before sunrise, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In particular, several studies cited by the NHTSA noted the following population groups cause the most drowsy driving accidents:

  • Male drivers 16 to 29 years old
  • Night shift workers whose sleep is often interrupted
  • People with sleep apnea syndrome (SAS)

In addition, the NHTSA study noted the peak times for accidents caused by tired drivers by age group:

  • 3 - 7 a.m. - Drivers 25 years old or younger
  • 4 - 7 a.m. - Drivers 26 to 45 years old
  • 6 - 7 a.m. - Drivers 46 to 65 years old
  • 1 - 2 p.m. - Drivers over 65 years old

How to spot tired drivers

The warning signs that another driver might not be fully awake can sometimes be hard to identify. But if you look carefully, you may be able to spot tired drivers and avoid a serious motor vehicle accident.

Tired drivers can be especially common at night on major highways like I-95, I-84 or I-91 in Connecticut, where tractor-trailers and other commercial drivers often travel long distances on cross-country journeys. Warning signs include:

  • Cars drifting between lanes without warning
  • Other driver not responding to car horns, flashing lights or other signals
  • Any other erratic driving maneuvers (driving on rumble strip, swerving, etc.)

But even if you suspect that another driver has fallen asleep at the wheel, that doesn't mean you can avoid them crashing into you. That's why it's important to know what to do if you've been involved in an accident caused by a tired driver.

What you should do after your accident

  • Call the police and ask them to respond to your accident. Without a police report, you will likely have a hard time getting the compensation you deserve.
  • Ask the police to send an ambulance. Don't try to diagnose yourself. Have a medical professional examine you and document any injuries.
  • Tell the police officer you suspect the other driver was asleep at the wheel at the time of your accident. The more information the officer has, the better.
  • Take photographs of your accident. Make sure to get pictures of the roadway behind the vehicle that crashed into yours. If the other driver was asleep, odds are there will be no skid marks on the road. That's because sleeping drivers usually don't hit the brakes before impact.
  • Talk to witnesses. If another driver or pedestrian saw your accident, make sure you get their personal information (full name, address, phone number) so you and law enforcement officials can contact them later.
  • Contact our law firm. We can help you every step of the way - from dealing with insurance companies to making sure you receive the medical care that you deserve.
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