Operating a motor vehicle is a routine, highly over-learned task with minimal novelty. Drivers are usually in a sedentary position; at night, they are in dim light or near darkness. The combination of those factors makes driving a task that is uniquely vulnerable to momentary lapses of attention or slowed reaction times. Behind drunk driving, drowsy driving is the second leading cause of preventable motor vehicle crashes.
Drowsy driving is responsible for roughly 7,500 traffic deaths each year. Research shows that more accidents occur between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. than any other time of the day. This is a time of day where freeways are often congested due to the morning rush hour and drivers may not be fully alert due to lack of sleep.
Many researchers have compared the effects of drowsy driving of a driver's reaction time to that of a person who is driving under the influence of alcohol. One study suggests that a driver who has been awake for 24 hours straight has a reaction time that is the equivalent to a driver with a 0.1% blood alcohol level, which is higher than the legal limit.
Adverse Effects of Drowsy Driving
Sleep deficiency has a number of adverse impacts on a driver's cognitive abilities, including:
- Slowed reaction time and reflexes
- Impaired balance
- Increased distractibility
- Impaired judgment (not as risk averse)
- Impaired memory
- Impaired creativity
- Increased risk of automatic behavior
- Increased risk of falling asleep
Medical Errors Caused by Drowsiness
A study done by The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published some alarming statistics about the effects of being drowsy while driving or working. The study analyzed errors made by hospital staff and looked for a role that being drowsy might have played in those errors.
- There are 109% more attentional failures at night after working over 16 hours
- There are 36% more serious medical errors when working for 30 hours
- There are 168% more car crashes for medical staff commuting after 24 hour shifts
- There are 468% more near-miss car crashes for medical staff commuting after 24 hour shifts
- There is a 73% greater risk of a needle stick or scalpel lacerations after working more than 20 consecutive hours
- There are 171% more complications in patients undergoing elective surgery if the surgeon had six hours or less sleep the night prior to the operation.
Overnight Trucking and Drowsy Driving
Many truckers prefer to drive them majority of their shifts in late night hours to avoid rush hour and other times of high traffic. This allows them to get to their destination quicker, but has the adverse effect of increased rates of drowsy driving. Research done by the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that truck drivers who work between midnight and noon only sleep an average of 3.8 hours per day. Video recording also revealed that truck drivers are often drowsy while driving. 56% of truck drivers in the study had 1 o more 6-minute intervals of drowsiness while driving.
If you have been involved in a truck accident, it may have been caused by drowsy driving. Contact our truck accident lawyers today to learn about your legal rights.