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Drowsy Drivers and Motor Vehicle Accidents

Do drowsy drivers pose a significant risk for motor vehicle accidents in the United States? Are drowsy drivers a major cause of motor vehicle accidents? Just how big a problem is drowsy driving in this country?

Most people would admit that at one time or another they have gotten behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and driven when they were drowsy or extremely tired. In order to stay awake and not fall asleep while driving, drivers drink caffeinated drinks, such as coffee or sodas, play the music on the radio loudly or put down their window to get in fresh air.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy drivers had a part in 2% of motor vehicle accidents where there were non-fatal injuries and 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle accidents. However, there are other studies that have estimated that drowsy drivers have a role in anywhere from 15% to 33% of fatal motor vehicle accidents. What this means is that there were over 30,000 non-fatal motor vehicle accidents and a minimum of 730 motor vehicle accidents where there was a fatality, which involved a drowsy driver.

There was a study that was conducted by Anne G. Wheaton. She is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Wheaton’s team questioned 147,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia concerning daily activities that ranged from work habits to driving and sleep.

Fallen asleep

According to this study that was published in the January 4, 2013 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, somewhere around 4% of drivers believe that they have fallen asleep at one time or another while they were driving. In fact, this study says that 4.2% of the adults who were questioned said they had actually fallen asleep while they were driving.

The researchers in the study think that these numbers are really quite a bit higher. This is due to the fact that a lot of people do not remember that they actually went to sleep while they were driving.

What the study revealed

The study revealed that drivers who do not get a sufficient amount of sleep (less than 6 hours per night) are at a greater risk for falling asleep while they are driving. It was also independently discovered that people with potential sleeping disorders were at a greater risk for going to sleep while driving.

The study found several groups that were at a greater risk for being drowsy drivers. These included drivers with sleep disorders, commercial drivers, drivers who are taking sedatives, people who work long hours or regular night shifts or anyone who simply does not get a sufficient amount of sleep.

Best remedy

Obviously, the best remedy for drowsy drivers is to get an adequate amount of sleep. This usually means 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Also, drowsy drivers can recognize the signs and symptoms of drowsiness and take appropriate action, such as pulling over to the side of the road and resting or changing drivers if driving with another driver.

If you are the innocent victim of a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, you should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer.

Article written by James Shugart

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