Study shows drowsy driving accidents are more prevalent than reported

Based on the findings of a recent study, drowsiness-related collisions resulting in serious injuries or death may be more prevalent than reported.

Most California motorists recognize the danger of falling asleep while they are behind the wheel, but many are unaware that drowsiness is also hazardous for drivers. Based on the findings of a recent study, driving while drowsy poses a significant accident risk for motorists. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving contributed to 846 traffic fatalities across the U.S. in 2014 alone. During that same year, many more people suffered serious injuries in drowsiness-related collisions.

Studying the effects of drowsiness on drivers

In association with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers performed a study to better estimate the prevalence of accidents involving drowsy drivers. For the study, the researchers examined the data for more than 14,000 auto accidents that occurred between 2009 and 2013. The collisions analyzed in the study were analyzed through the NHTSA's National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System and resulted in at least one vehicle being towed from the scene.

The NASS CDS investigators assessed the drivers' attentiveness prior to the crashes. They labeled the motorists' levels of attention as attentive, asleep or sleepy, distracted or unknown. In order to develop estimates they could apply to all reported motor vehicle accidents, the researchers employed multiple imputation models.

Drowsy drivers pose a significant risk

Based on the study's findings, people who are fatigued or sleep deprived pose a serious risk when they are behind the wheel. The study estimated that drowsy drivers contributed to 21 percent of all fatal collisions. Additionally, drowsiness played a part in 13 percent of all accidents that resulted in serious injuries that necessitated hospitalization. Applying the study's estimates to all reported auto accidents showed that 6,400 fatal and 109,000 injury crashes each year are caused by drowsy drivers.

Overall, the study's estimates are well above the reported government statistics. These suggest that drowsy drivers are involved in only 2.5 percent of fatal wrecks and 2.2 percent of injury accidents. Thus, the study's findings suggest that the prevalence of serious drowsy driving collisions is much higher than reported.

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

For motorists, fatigue and sleep deprivation can cause impairments similar to those resulting from alcohol intoxication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this includes diminished reaction times. Additionally, drowsiness may affect people's ability to focus on the task of driving and their ability to make sound decisions. Due to these impairments, drivers' ability to safely operate their vehicles and respond to situations on the road may be affected. This may result in auto accidents, which could cause serious injuries or death for those involved.

Seeking legal guidance

When people in California are involved in drowsy driving accidents, the effects can be devastating. They may suffer serious injuries that require medical treatment and time off of work. Consequently, people may incur unexpected medical costs and lost income, which may affect their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Those who have been injured in such collisions may benefit from discussing their case with an attorney. A lawyer may help them to understand their rights and whether a negligent driver may be held liable for their damages.