How Common is Drowsy Driving?

Almost everyone feels extraordinarily tired from time to time. Illness can quickly zap energy and leave a person feeling fatigued. Some people work long hours at physically or mentally demanding jobs. In other instances, circumstances involving a spouse or child may limit the ability to rest. Finally, we sometimes just can’t seem to sleep at night, which makes the following day long and tiring.

Unfortunately, even when people are not well-rested, they sometimes find themselves behind the wheel. Being tired doesn’t necessarily make one a poor driver, but what if drowsiness sets in? In fact, most people would probably admit to driving while drowsy at least once or twice, maybe more. But how often does it occur? We’ll answer that question below and discuss the attendant dangers of drowsy driving.

American Sleep Patterns

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that more than 43 percent of the workforce is sleep-deprived. While healthy adults should sleep for 7 to 9 hours each night, the National Health Interview Survey determined that 30 percent of adults sleep fewer than 6 hours a night.

We’ll discuss the negative impact on driving below, but that’s not the only harmful outcome. Sleep deprivation can result in work injuries, inefficiency, and contribute to illness - including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have called sleep deprivation in America a public health epidemic.

The Scary Effect on Driving

According to AAA, 41 percent of drivers admit to either “nodding off” or “falling asleep” while driving at least one time in their lives. The National Safety Council (NSC) describes drowsy driving as “impaired driving.” The NSC further notes that fatigued drivers are three times more likely than other drivers to be involved in a car crash, and cites research equating the loss of two hours of sleep to drinking three beers.

Sadly, more than 5,000 people died in 2014 in crashes related to drowsy driving. Tens of thousands more were injured.

The Duty Owed to Other Motorists

All drivers owe a duty to other motorists on the road to exercise reasonable care while driving. When a driver fails to meet the standard of care and causes injury, the law will hold the negligent driver accountable. An injured person can recover a variety of damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. It goes without saying that it is negligent to fall asleep or “nod off” while driving.

But what if a person is merely drowsy, yet doesn’t fall asleep? Like with many things in life, it may be a question of degree. While there may not be a universal definition for “drowsy driving,” the real question is whether the driver exercised reasonable care. Just imagine a 5,000 pound automobile or an 80,000 pound semi-truck barreling down the highway with a drowsy driver. A loss of awareness for even the slightest amount of time can have devastating effects. If the level of drowsiness affects the driver’s ability to drive safely, then he or she is behaving negligently by continuing to driving.

Call with Questions

If you have questions about an accident that may have involved a drowsy driver, call us and one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer them. We take pride in holding negligent drivers accountable for their behavior to help ensure that everyone in Oregon will be safer in the future.


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