Several studies over the past few years have called attention to the risks associated with drowsy driving. Although many are well aware drowsy driving can impede a person’s ability to drive safely, numerous motorists still get behind, or remain behind, the wheel when fatigued. This may have a lot to do with the demands of daily life and the increasingly longer hours Americans are working their jobs, but the latest study on the topic is showing just how important adequate rest is when it comes to driving.

In the first peer-reviewed study on drowsy driving, researchers reviewed U.S. Department of transportation data from nearly 5,500 accidents, including detailed investigatory reports and interviews with drivers themselves. Their findings, published in the journal Sleep, were as follows:

  • Drivers who slept under 4 hours in a 24-hour period were 15x more likely to cause wrecks. To put it in perspective, that’s equivalent to operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level 1.5x the DUI limit. Drivers with less than 4 hours of shut eye were also the most likely group in the study to cause single-car wrecks.
  • Drivers with less than the seven to nine hours of sleep as recommended by experts also had increased risks of causing wrecks. For example, drivers with 5 hours of sleep were nearly 2 to 3 times as likely to cause an accident, and drivers with 6 hours of sleep were roughly 1.3x more likely to cause a crash.
  • Even for well-rested drivers, fatigue on longer trips can arise. Researchers noted that being behind the wheel for three or more consecutive hours also increased crash risks, as can changing sleeping habits or schedules within the previous seven days.

Prioritizing Sleep & Managing Risks

Researchers, health officials, and regulators from traffic safety agencies are using the new study to reiterate the importance of prioritizing sleep, not only for one’s overall health and well-being, but also as a means to reduce risks on our roads. Whether you commute by car on a daily basis or have plans for a coming road trip, consider these helpful reminders:

  • Adults should shoot for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, as recommended by the CDC.
  • For those who miss out on sleep, which may be inevitable in today’s busy world, they can make up some of that “debt” by sleeping more hours the next day.
  • Prior to any drive that will require you to be behind the wheel for a longer period of time, getting adequate rest is even more important. Prioritize sleep in the days leading up to any planned trip, or take steps to plan for rest breaks or driver switch-offs along the way.
  • If you feel your lack of sleep will affect or is affecting your ability to safely operate a vehicle, take action. Examples may include opting for public transportation on a day when you know you haven’t slept much, or pulling your vehicle over to take a short nap, regroup, and use caffeine for a short-term boost.

Your Rights After an Auto Accident

Drowsy driving may not be against the law, but it does certainly affect a person’s ability to:

  • Abide by traffic laws when driving on roads and highways
  • Stay in their lane and avoid lane-drifting that can be caused by inadvertent “micro-sleep”
  • Stay awake behind the wheel and prevent crashes or road departures caused by falling asleep
  • Be aware and attentive of their surroundings when making turns, yielding, and changing lanes
  • Reacting in time to avoid potential collision situations on the road

There are many ways sleep deprivation can prevent motorists from upholding their legal duty to safely operate their vehicle. Whether that means running a red light, changing lanes without looking, or failing to stop in time before hitting another vehicle, any accidents caused by this breach of duty can provide the grounds on which seriously injured victims base their personal injury claims. Because proving fatigue may not be an easy matter nor always possible, investigations into drowsy driving crashes need to focus on how negligent drivers failed to uphold their legal duties, and why they should be liable for the damages victims suffered as a result.

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At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, our West Palm Beach lawyers have established our firm as a trusted and trial-ready personal injury practice. Over the years, our attorneys have leveraged more than two centuries of collective experience, a passion for detailed and meticulous investigation, and a focus on guiding clients through difficult times to secure national recognition, numerous successful verdicts and settlements in accident cases across the state, and hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for those we represented.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in any type of auto accident, including one caused by a negligent or sleep-deprived driver, our award-winning team is here to help. We serve clients throughout Palm Beach County and the state of Florida, and offer free case evaluations to help victims and their families get started on the right path. Contact us today to speak with a lawyer.