Driver Fatigue and Drowsy Driving Cause Crashes

The dangers of drunk driving are well established. The risks of distracted driving and cell phone use and driving are well known.

There is also increasing public awareness that the combination of fatigue and driving is another dangerous risk. It may take only a second or two of decreased awareness or being asleep, and a crash may occur. Drowsy driving leads to thousands of vehicle crashes each year. Drowsy driving leads to thousands of vehicle crashes each year.

Consequences of a crash caused by a fatigued or sleep deprived driver can be particularly serious in causing death or serious injuries because a fatigued driver may make no attempt to avoid a crash.

A NHTSA study reports that sleep is a neurobiological need with predictable patterns of sleepiness and wakefulness. The loss of one night’s sleep can lead to extreme short term sleepiness. Habitually restricting sleep by one or two hours per night can lead to chronic sleepiness.

Features of driving impairment associated with fatigue include reduced reaction time, judgment and vision, attention and information processing. Skid marks are often absent from a drowsy driving crash scene.

Fatigue warning signs may include difficulty remembering the last few minutes or miles driven, the vehicle drifting, driver forgetfulness, and slowed reaction time.

There are numerous potential causes of fatigue and drowsy driving. A person may get too little sleep, interrupted sleep, side effects of medications, consumption of alcohol. These factors or a combination thereof have cumulative effects and can increase the risks of a fatigue related crash.

Persons at risk include truckers and others working long shifts, people who work and go to school, who don’t get enough sleep, and cumulative sleep loss. Drowsy driving crashes predominantly occur after midnight.

It was reported that Maricopa County Arizona paid $1.2 million to two injured individuals, involved in a Chandler, Arizona car crash with a sleep deprived Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy.

Distracted driving is also similar to sleep impaired and alcohol impaired driving, crashes and fatalities may occur due to driver inattention. Obvious examples of distracted driving include cell phone use, use of social media while driving. Drivers who use their phone, text, Snapchat, Instagram while driving may take their eyes off of the road for several seconds, often while driving at significant speeds, over much longer distances than they realize. Those drivers are much more likely to get into a crash than are non distracted drivers.