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Nearly Half of Americans Surveyed Struggled to Stay Awake While Driving

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In today's busy, stressed-out culture, sleep is often made less of a priority than it should be. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep "a public health epidemic," with 11 percent of Americans receiving insufficient sleep on a nightly basis.

What percentage of drivers are affected by insufficient sleep?

In September 2019, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) surveyed more than 2,000 adult drivers across the United States.

The survey asked the question, "Have you ever struggled to stay awake while driving a vehicle?" Approximately 45 percent of respondents answered "yes." That includes 359 (46%) in the southern region of the U.S.

The percentage out of each age group of those who answered "yes" included:

  • 18-24 — 38%
  • 25-34 — 42%
  • 35-44 — 50%
  • 45-54 — 50%
  • 55-64 — 43%
  • 65+ — 44%

Driving drowsy not always the same as falling asleep behind the wheel

Drowsy driving doesn't always involve falling asleep at the wheel. AASM president Kelly A. Carden, MD, said in a release:

“Driving while drowsy is similar to drunk driving with regards to the delays in reaction time and impairment in decision-making.”

That means the loss of coordination, delayed reaction time, and impaired judgment induced by being drowsy significantly increases the likelihood of a crash.

The National Safety Council said that getting behind the wheel after going more than 20 hours without sleep is like driving drunk with a blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.08 percent. Drivers who are fatigued are three times more likely to crash than those who are not.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 91,000 crashes in 2017 were caused by drowsy driving. Nearly 800 lives were lost as a result.

What can be done to prevent drowsy driving?

Sleep health publication Sleep Review offers four practical tips drivers should adhere to in order to avoid a crash. These include:

  • Avoiding driving at certain times: The morning and afternoon rush hours are among the most dangerous times to be on the road. The hours between 2-4 a.m. are especially dangerous. During this time, the body's natural clock (circadian rhythm) programs us to sleep. The majority of drowsy driving crashes occur between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Getting adequate sleep: It's recommended that drivers get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to stay awake behind the wheel. Getting anything less than that on any given night can significantly increase the likelihood of dozing off behind the wheel.
  • Recognizing signs of drowsy driving: Anyone can get drowsy behind the wheel. Preventing a crash is a matter of knowing the signs of drowsy driving and getting off the road as quickly as possible. The signs often include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, head swaying, fidgeting in seat, trouble staying in lane, poor judgment of speed and distance, and delayed reaction time.
  • Being aware of the conditions that contribute to drowsy driving: Driving alone on certain roads can increase the risk of dozing off. Drivers should be cautious when traveling on long stretches with no changes, especially at night. It's best to take frequent breaks when embarking on long distant drives.

Call the hardest-working car accident lawyer In Nashville

All drivers have a duty to not get behind the wheel when it's unsafe to do so. When the decision to drive while tired causes a wreck, those responsible should be held accountable.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash with a drowsy driver, it's critical that you get legal help as soon as possible. An experienced car accident attorney at Thompson Law can help you build strong legal claim and recover all medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages you're entitled to.

To find out how we can help you, contact our law office in Nashville today.

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