How dangerous is drowsy driving? As risky as operating a vehicle while under the influence

November 4, 2020 | 10:18 am


How dangerous is drowsy driving?

Driving on less than 5 hours of sleep is similar to driving over the legal limit for alcohol. In fact, you are 3 times more likely to be in a vehicle crash if you are fatigued, which is why drowsy driving is responsible for some 300,000 crashes every year in the United States, and up to 6,400 deaths per year, according to National Sleep Foundation.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles — for Drowsy Driving Prevention Week — is raising awareness of the dangers of driving while drowsy, and educating drivers on sleep safety in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to ultimately save lives.

And with the end of Daylight Saving Time, the time change can disrupt sleep patterns causing people to feel drowsy.

“Driving while you are tired or drowsy is risky and can have the same dangerous consequences. These are facts: it impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney and senior partner Matthew Clark. “Please make sleep a priority, and only drive when alert. Think of your safety and your passengers, but also of the safety of others on the road.”

Some groups have been identified as most vulnerable to drowsy driving including commercial drivers, particularly tractor trailer, tour bus and public transit drivers; people who work long hours or late-night shifts; people with sleep disorders; new parents or caregivers of infants and young children; young and newer drivers; and college and high school students. For example, drowsy driving contributed to 91,000 police-reported crashes and nearly 800 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Busy interstates accounted for the most sleep-related driving deaths compared to other roadways. Utility vehicles were involved in the highest percentage of fatal sleepy-driver accidents with pickup trucks and vans next on the list. Dawn light and foggy skies contributed the most to fatal sleep-related accidents, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A study by SleepJunkie, a website focused on improving sleeping habits, found that drowsy driving-related roadway fatalities spike in the early morning hours, with 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., marking the deadliest span. The hours just before and after — 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — were the second and third most fatal times.

Before you drive, consider if you are:

  • Sleep-deprived or fatigued. Six hours of sleep or less triples your risk.
  • Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia) or poor quality sleep.
  • Driving long distances without proper rest breaks.
  • Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep.
  • Taking sedating medications such as antidepressants, cold tablets or antihistamines.
  • Working more than 60 hours a week. This increases your risk of crashing by 40 percent.
  • Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work.
  • Drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
  • Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road.

The warning signs of drowsy driving include repeated yawning, struggling to keep one’s eyes open and focused, forgetting the last few miles driven, tailgating or missing traffic signals, and swerving or drifting between lanes of traffic.

Here is what you can do to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Get enough sleep before you drive. It’s recommended adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
  • If you’re planning a long road trip, make sure you plan properly for rest stops — a break every 100 miles or every two hours on the road is suggested.
  • Use the buddy system to keep you awake and share driving duties.
  • Also, try to travel during times you are normally awake.
  • If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. Period.
  • Drink caffeine if you feel sleepy, and see how you feel first before getting behind the wheel.
  • Avoid alcohol and medication that may cause drowsiness or have side effects.
  • If you feel too sleepy, find someplace safe to take a nap or sleep, or stay the night somewhere. After, you’ll feel energized and ready to drive!

Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a wrongful death lawsuit in which a driver fell asleep at wheel after working a 12-hour shift, jumped a curb and struck a jogger as he ran on the sidewalk. The jogger was also a husband and father of a little girl. That case settled for $6 million.

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Drowsy Driving Prevention Week reminds motorist to never drive while tired

November 5, 2014 | 9:23 am


On Tuesday, July 29, 26-year-old Jesse Rios was taking a morning jog near his home in southwest Bakersfield. At the same time, 29-year-old Eliseo Soto was driving home after reportedly working a 12-hour shift, police said.

Soto allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel, jumped a curb in his truck and fatally struck Rios. Rios, the sole provider for his family, left behind his wife and 4-year-old daughter.

The Bakersfield-based wrongful death law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which is representing the Rios family in their personal injury case, is reminding drivers this week — Drowsy Driving Prevention Week — to think twice before getting behind the wheel while tired.

The week-long campaign — promoted annually by the National Sleep Foundation, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 8 this year — hopes to lower the number of motor vehicle accidents due to fatigue, and ultimately make the roads a safer place overall. The campaign also provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road.

Don’t think it’s an important issue? Consider these stats and facts:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 reported crashes are the result of driver fatigue each year.
  • These crashes result in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
  • 60 percent of adult drivers say they’ve driven while tired in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And 13 percent say they have nodded off while driving at least once a month.
  • There is no test to determine sleepiness as there is for intoxication.
  • Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crashes. In other words, the less people sleep, the greater the risk.

Here are some tips courtesy of car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles and the National Sleep Foundation. Before you drive, consider if you are:

  • Sleep-deprived or fatigued. Six hours of sleep or less triples your risk.
  • Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia) or poor quality sleep.
  • Driving long distances without proper rest breaks.
  • Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep.
  • Taking sedating medications such as antidepressants, cold tablets or antihistamines.
  • Working more than 60 hours a week. This increases your risk of crashing by 40 percent.
  • Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work.
  • Drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
  • Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road.

And to make sure you avoid sleep-related accidents and crashes, make sure you follow this advice:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the highway.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to arrive to your destination.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to help get refreshed.
  • Use the buddy system to keep you awake and share driving duties.
  • Avoid alcohol and medication that may cause drowsiness or have side effects.
  • Don’t drive when you would normally be sleeping.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident and you suspect the persona at fault fell asleep, it’s important to contact an attorney. The car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are experienced in such cases. Call the law firm at 661-323-4000 or visit the website Chainlaw.com.