Just how dangerous is drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving is a problem in America’s sleep-deprived society. People should understand the risks before the upcoming holiday travel season.

With the upcoming holiday season, countless families in West Virginia and across the country are preparing to make their annual holiday treks to visit friends and family in other cities and states. Rather than fly, many people opt to take a road trip during the holidays. There are always dangers present during long car drives, from driving in adverse weather and heavy traffic to encountering other drivers who are distracted, intoxicated or aggressive. Motorists should also be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, especially for people who have been awake longer than 24 hours. However, signs of impairment can begin to occur for drivers who only miss two to four of the recommended eight hours of sleep nightly. Like a drunk driver, a sleep-deprived driver may have difficulty making smart decisions, reacting quickly and paying attention to the road.

Statistics on drowsy driving

The following drowsy driving statistics have been provided by the CDC, the National Sleep Foundation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

· About 72,000 drowsy driving accidents caused 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths across the country in 2013.

· In surveys, one in 25 drivers admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point during the past month.

· Authorities believe there may be 6,000 fatal crashes every year related to drowsy driving, as the reported numbers may be underestimated.

Those who may be the most likely to get into a drowsy driving crash include high school and college students, people who are regularly sleep-deprived, shift workers, commercial drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders and those who take medications that cause drowsiness.

More public awareness needed

Despite the alarming statistics, most drivers may be unaware or underestimate the risks of drowsy driving. One West Virginia woman, whose 18-year-old sister was killed in an accident several years ago in which the driver was believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel, says it is important for the public to be educated on these dangers.

It is not always easy to prevent the actions of others, but drivers might reduce their risks by paying attention to the signs another driver might be falling asleep at the wheel, such as weaving in and out of lanes. Before going on a trip, West Virginians may protect themselves and others from an accident by addressing chronic sleep issues and getting a full night's sleep the night before. Those who were injured by drowsy or negligent drivers may be entitled to compensation and should speak with an experienced attorney at Warner Law Offices.