There are many safe drivers out there. This includes people who lock their phones in the trunk to avoid the temptation of texting or even talking on them, or people who never step behind the wheel when they are drunk or under the influence of other substances. Yet, our Panama City car accident injury law firm bets that many of these people are guilty of another dangerous habit – drowsy driving. Driving while tired may feel like a necessity in modern-day America, but the number of lives lost, injuries suffered, and accidents incurred may make you think twice.
The Labor Day holiday opened with a tragedy on Panama City's roads, as WMBB reported. According to Panama City Police, the Cove area crash occurred at around 3:40 AM on Monday, September 2nd. A driver heading east on Cherry Street swerved into an oncoming traffic lane and ended up on the shoulder, hitting two vehicles and a utility pole as he lost control. Police suspect the driver, who suffered minor injuries, fell asleep at the wheel.
Sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation ("NSF"), the DrowsyDriving.org website tackles the issue of tired driving. The group cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), which estimates 100,000 police-reported crashes per year stem from driver fatigue. However, this is likely a significant underestimate. While there are some signs that can suggest drowsy driving was a factor, there is no way to definitively determine that drowsy driving caused a crash.
Drowsiness may also be a factor in crashes where other factors are listed as primary, such as alcohol use. Still, the NHTSA further estimates that driver fatigue is directly responsible for 1,550 fatalities, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in financial losses every year. Self-reporting in a 2005 NSF study suggested 60% of adult drivers drove while drowsy in the prior year, with 37% admitting to falling asleep at the wheel as a result.
Other research confirms the danger of drowsiness behind the wheel. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that losing as little as one or two hours of sleep per night (i.e. sleeping 6 or 7 hours instead of 8) doubled the risk of being involved in a sleep-related crash. Sleeping fewer than 5 hours increased this risk 4 or 5 times. In Austria, researchers concluded that being awake for 18 consecutive hours was equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 and 24 hours to .10 (.08 is deemed legally drunk in all U.S. states).
Per a 2002 NSF poll, adults between 18 and 29 years old are the age group most likely to drive drowsy (71% saying they did so versus 52% of 30-64 years old and 19% of those over 65). 56% of men report driving while tired versus 45% of women, with almost twice as many men confessing to falling asleep at the wheel (22% vs. 12%). Other higher-risk groups: adults with children living in the home; shift-workers, especially those with rotating hours; commercial drivers, particularly long-haul drivers; business travelers (due to jet-lag); and people with sleep apnea or other unmanaged sleep disorders. Drivers are also at an increased risk during late night or mid-afternoon (i.e. 2-4 PM) and while travelling on high-speed, rural roads with limited traffic.
As always, prevention is best. However, if you've been injured or lost a loved one due to another driver's drowsiness, then you should contact an experienced civil lawyer. Our Panama City drowsy driving injury law firm can help you recover monetary damages from drowsy drivers and others (such as employers whose irresponsible policies contributed to the at-fault driver's drowsiness) responsible for fatigue-related crashes.