Everybody knows that driving while under the influence, be it from alcohol, prescription narcotics or illegal drugs, can be deadly. But an experiment recently conducted by the Today Show in conjunction with Drowsy Driving Prevention Week shows that driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous, and results in hundreds of thousands of personal injury claims each year.
Drowsy Driving is Deadly in California
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driving while drowsy causes more than 100,000 automobile accidents each year, resulting in 400,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths due to drowsy drivers. In California, 3,900 accidents were the result of drowsy driving in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. These accidents caused more than 2,100 injuries and 36 deaths.
Being awake for a full 24-hours leaves a driver with an impairment level equivalent to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.10. Drowsy driving can be the result of a single actor or a combination of factors, including:
- Sleep loss;
- Driving patterns, e.g., people who drive between midnight and 6 a.m. or a substantial number of hours each day (think long-haul truck drivers like the one who crashed into actor and comedian Tracy Morgan’s bus earlier this year, seriously injuring the actor and killing his friend) are at greater risk of becoming drowsy at the wheel;
- Use of medications with a sedative effect;
- Sleep disorders; or
- Alcohol use, which can increase drowsiness.
Injury Claim against Drowsy Drivers
Drowsy driving happens more often than you think. Drowsydriving.org, part of the National Sleep Foundation, reports that 1 in 10 people have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. That means there is a 10% chance that if you are involved in an automobile accident, the driver was at least momentarily asleep at the wheel. Odds are even better that he was drowsy while driving, and this drowsiness was at least part of the cause of the accident.
Some drivers may have become drowsy due to previously unknown medical conditions or prescribed medications that did not warn them that possible side effects include marked drowsiness. But for many others, their drowsy while driving status was the result of pure negligence – driving longer hours than legally permitted for truck drivers, operating a vehicle knowing that drowsiness is a side effect of medication, being awake for 24 hours or more or even having a diagnosed medical condition, such as narcolepsy, that makes them prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
In these instances, where the driver knew or reasonably should have known his driving would be impaired, you may be entitled to compensation for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death suit against the driver and, if the driver was working as a delivery or other driver when the accident occurred, his employer.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are one of the more than 2,000 people injured in California every year by drowsy drivers, the attorneys at Appel Law Firm LLP can help. Our personal injury attorneys have more than 60 years’ combined experience handling personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from automobile accidents. Contact us today at 888-527-0674, or complete or web form, to discuss your case.