Wake Up, Panama City: Alerting the Community to the Danger of Drowsy Drivers

It is a danger that, though we've talked about it on these pages before, continues to fly under the radar of the media and most safety-advocates. Campaigns abound that focus on the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Perhaps as many campaigns warn of the threat posed by texting or using other mobile-communications devices behind the wheel, campaigns that sometimes mention other topics under the heading of distracted driving. While it is less commonly discussed, the threat of drowsy driving or falling asleep behind the wheel is a major concern to our Panama City car accident injury attorney. This is especially true since an over-tired driver is being eyed as the root cause of a second major accident in our region in fewer than six weeks' time.

Walton County Car Crash Blamed on Driver Falling Asleep at the Wheel

State Troopers in Santa Rosa Beach were called to investigate an accident late last week that, according to WJHG, stemmed from a local man falling asleep behind the wheel. Officials with the Florida Highway Patrol report that 27-year-old Jameson Hammond was driving east on 30-A at approximately 7:15 A.M. They believe Hammond fell asleep when passing the area of Little Red Fish Lake, causing his Nissan Altima to drift into oncoming traffic. Carl Bunn, a 51-year-old man from Freeport, tried to swerve to the right to avoid Hammond but was unsuccessful. The driver's side of the Altima and the driver's side of Bunn's Chevy Silverado pickup collided. The impact was severe enough to send Hammond, Bunn, and Bunn's passenger, 34-year-old Andre Anderson of Freeport, to Sacred Heart Emerald Coast. A medical helicopter later transferred Hammond to Sacred Heart Pensacola. As of the WJHG report, Bunn and Hammond were listed in serious condition. Anderson's injuries were deemed minor. Police expect to file charges against Hammond in relation to the incident.

Statistics on Drowsy Driving

Edmunds, an online resource for automotive information, opens its article on drowsy driving with a simple insight: "A tired driver is a dangerous driver." Citing figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), the site suggests fatigue/drowsiness is the principal cause of nearly 100,000 police-reported passenger car collisions annually and is responsible for at least 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries each year. It is likely that more sleep-deficit accidents go unreported. Interestingly, the majority of crashes and near-crashes happen during daytime hours. However, the sleep-related accidents that do occur at night tend to be more serious.

Factors Contributing to Drowsy Driving

Edmunds identifies a number of factors that increase the danger of drowsy driving. Having non-standard work hours and holding multiple jobs increases the threat of drowsiness-related crashes. High school starting hours have also been eyed, with early starting bells correlating with a higher crash rate. In general, 18-20 year olds are involved in 5 times as many sleep-related accidents and close-calls than other age groups. While many assume drowsiness is primarily an issue for long-haul truckers, they account for less than 1% of sleep-related accidents. This may be because federal regulations limit truck drivers to driving 10 hours in a 24-hour time frame.

Medical issues are also a factor. Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, are a significant factor in fatigue-related accidents. Sleep apnea actually doubles the risk of being involved in a car crash and makes it 3 to 5 times more likely that the individual will be in a serious crash involving personal injury. Additionally, many medications, even over-the-counter varieties, can also cause drowsiness and, in turn, accidents.

Ringing an Alarm

Many people wouldn't dream of driving drunk or texting behind the wheel. Many of these same people regularly drive while drowsy, tired, or outright exhausted. In a way, fatigue has become a status symbol in our overworked society. We need to rethink this and to make driving while tired unacceptable. Our Panama City accident law firm is not only dedicated to helping the injured recover in civil court, we are also passionate about safety. Especially when safety also means sleeping late!

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