Drowsy Driving: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Drivers

Drowsy Driving: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Drivers

drowsy driving

Have you ever been a sleepy driver? Ever nodded off at the wheel or struggled to keep yourself awake? If so, you’re not alone. Drowsy driving is incredibly common. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that 37 million motorists are estimated to drive drowsy at least once per year. 

However, just because a lot of people do it doesn’t mean it’s okay. Drowsy driving is very dangerous and is considered a public health concern in the United States. 95% of Americans willingly admit that drowsy driving is risky, and yet they do it anyway. 

When you drive without getting enough sleep, it seriously impairs your motor functions, which can lead to severe and even deadly accidents. The NSF states that drivers who have only slept 3 to 5 hours are unfit to drive and should not get behind the wheel. 

If you or a loved one are the victim of a drowsy driving accident in Maryland, we are here to help. At Zirkin & Schmerling, our Maryland car accident attorneys are dedicated to helping injured victims and their families get the compensation they deserve for their pain, suffering, and financial losses after an accident. 

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Drivers?

driving while you are tired

Various studies conducted by sleep foundations have shown that drowsy driving is similar to driving while drunk. And some experts believe that driving while you are tired is actually worse than if you had been drinking alcohol. 

After 18 hours of being awake without sleep, the effects on hand-eye coordination, multi-tasking, and reaction times are similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. If you drive after 20 hours of being awake with no sleep, it is like being impaired by a BAC of 0.08%. And if you are awake for 24 hours and then get behind the wheel, it is the equivalent of having a BAC of 0.10%.

As a whole, when you are too tired to drive, it can affect your:

  • Eyesight
  • Motor functions and reaction times
  • Alertness 
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Judgment (ability to make good decisions)

Drowsy Driving Accidents

Understandably, life sometimes gets in the way of getting good sleep. Maybe you had to work a late shift, perhaps your job simply requires long hours, or maybe something you were anxious about kept you up all night. However, no matter the reason, getting behind the wheel without adequate sleep is incredibly dangerous and can cause accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports an estimated 100,000 accidents each year caused by drowsy driving. And of those accidents, 71,000 resulted in injuries and $12.5 million in damages. 

Hundreds of deaths occur each year as well due to drowsy driving. In 2021, the NHTSA estimated close to 700 deaths from drowsy-driving-related accidents. 

Warning Signs That You Are Too Tired While Driving

Warning signs that may indicate you are too tired to drive can include:

  • Frequent blinking
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Eyes going out of focus
  • Frequent yawning
  • Trouble focusing
  • Poor memory recall
  • Drifting between lanes
  • Drooping head
  • Slow movements
  • Accidentally running lights or stop signs
  • Missing turns, signs, or exits
  • Restlessness or irritability

People at Higher Risk for Drowsy Driving

Reports show that more than half of drowsy driving accidents are committed by people 25 years of age or younger. Teenagers, in particular, are much more likely to get behind the wheel without sufficient sleep due to staying up late with friends, studying, or going out to parties. 

However, several other people are at higher risk of drowsy driving, such as: 

  • Those taking sedating medicines
  • Healthcare professionals that work long hours in hospitals
  • Commercial truck drivers
  • Those with sleep disorders 
  • Overnight workers (shift workers)

Drowsy Driving Laws in Maryland

As of yet, there are no official drowsy driving laws in the state of Maryland. However, as a part of the Maryland Zero Deaths Program, the Maryland Department of Transportation has partnered with the GHSA, The National Road Safety Foundation, and The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems to combat the issue of drowsy driving on the state’s roads. 

This includes a grant to create programs and campaigns to help spread awareness of drowsy driving. The MDT also actively participates in National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to educate drivers and help prevent drowsy driving accidents. 

Tips for Preventing Drowsy Driving

If you are experiencing sleepiness while driving, you should pull over somewhere safe and power nap if possible. If this is not an option, find somewhere safe to park and leave your car and call someone to come get you, such as a friend, or relative, or you can call a rideshare service to take you home. 

Tips to prevent drowsy driving include:

  • Regularly getting adequate sleep
  • Making sure you get enough sleep before going on a long road trip
  • Rearrange your schedule if possible, to allow for getting more hours of sleep
  • Use rideshare services or public transport when you expect to be short on sleep
  • Use vacation days to catch up on sleep if necessary
  • Avoid using medications that cause drowsiness before getting behind the wheel
  • Get checked by a specialist if you think you might have a sleep disorder

Were You Injured in a Drowsy Driving Accident? We Are Here to Help

Proving lack of sleep and fatigue as a factor in car accidents is not easy. Thus, if you were injured in an accident that you believe was caused by a drowsy driver, you should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer.

Because Maryland doesn’t have any official laws against drowsy driving, it can be challenging to hold someone liable for being sleepy while driving. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to file a claim when you’ve been injured by a drowsy driver. An experienced attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to build a strong case and recover the compensation you deserve. 

At Zirkin & Schmerling, our compassionate team has experience handling a wide variety of Maryland car accident cases, including those involving drowsy driving. We are dedicated to ensuring every one of our clients gets the full and fair settlement they deserve.

Contact us or call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our personal injury attorneys today.