You already know that drunk driving is dangerous. South Dakota drivers who get behind the wheel while intoxicated usually face steep criminal penalties for their actions, but did you know that other drivers could be just as dangerous? Drowsy drivers are often just as likely to cause a serious accident as someone who is drunk.
This problem is widespread and largely unnoticed. Unlike drinking and driving, you may not associate being sleepy with also being dangerous. After all, most people would take the keys away from an intoxicated friend. But a sleepy friend? Maybe not.
Drowsy driving kills
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 100,000 drowsy driving accidents are reported to police annually, which involve 1,550 fatalities. However, these are only the officially reported numbers, and experts tend to agree that the actual death toll is much higher. Data from a 2015 Governors Highway Safety Association report put the death toll at 5,000.
The AAA foundation estimates that these accidents occur at a rate three times higher than the official, police-reported number. It also believes that, of its estimated 328,000 annual drowsy driving accidents, 6,400 involved fatalities. Another 109,000 injuries likely occur every year.
Sleepy driver equals asleep driver
Driving requires sharp focus and attention. If your eyes are not on the road, you are more likely to cause an accident. Sleepy drivers not only have slowed response times but are also more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. A survey of adult drivers found that 20 percent admitted they had fallen asleep while driving sometime in the year before the survey. A shocking 40 percent said they had fallen asleep at least once since they began driving.
Even for those who manage to stay awake, there are serious consequences to being sleepy while driving. People who have been awake for 20 hours or longer have a response time equivalent to someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent. Their chance of causing an accident is also tripled.
Drowsy driving injuries can be severe
Delayed response times means drivers do not have the ability to hit the brakes or take evasive action. Accidents that occur at high rates of speed are more likely to cause severe injuries and fatalities. This is not to downplay the seriousness of low-speed collisions, which can also cause a surprising amount of damage to both vehicles and their occupants.
There is not much you can do to avoid a drowsy driver, which can be upsetting. No matter how safely you drive, an irresponsible person can still cause an accident. If you received an injury because of another person’s negligent driving, you can potentially achieve necessary compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Most South Dakota victims accomplish this through the careful filing of a personal injury suit.