Drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving

CBS News recently reported that a driver who had just left her 13-hour work shift dozed off while driving home. She crashed her vehicle into the Sleep Experts bed mattress store in Dallas. With tongue in cheek, it was stated that the Sleep Experts store was not "designed to be a drive-thru operation" serving sleepy motorists. The report is amusing since no one ended up being injured as a result of the driver having nodded off.

However, if you are in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver, or someone who fell asleep at the wheel, the situation would not be amusing. After all, the odds are that such a crash might well be serious and possibly fatal.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, drowsy driving is defined as the operation of a motor vehicle while being impaired by a lack of sleep. Indeed, studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), driving drowsy affects your ability to drive safely since drowsiness slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive and affects the decision making ability.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year resulting in 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries. The NHTSA concludes that drowsy driving and fall-asleep crashes are likely to be serious because of delayed reaction time in hitting the brakes and steering the vehicle. Further, most drowsy driving and fall-asleep accidents tend to occur at high speeds since most long distance and/or nighttime driving takes place on major roads such as interstate highways.

The CDC says that the following are those most likely to drive while drowsy:

  • Commercial drivers
  • Drivers with sleep deprivation
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Drivers who use sedating medications
  • Shift workers (working the night shift or long shifts)

Steps to take to avoid drowsy driving

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute offers the following suggestions to drivers in order to avoid driving while drowsy.

  • Sleep well before starting your drive.
  • Pull over and take a nap if you feel sleepy.
  • If you feel drowsy, but have a passenger who can drive, let the passenger take a turn behind the wheel.
  • On long trips break every several hours.
  • Avoid sedating medications and alcohol while behind the wheel.

Keep in mind that the CDC finds that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night while adolescents need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night.

Suing in Texas for injuries sustained as a result of drowsy driving

Texas, like the vast majority of states, does not have specific drowsy driving laws. In part, this may be because there is no scientific test to determine drowsiness as there is for intoxication.

Undoubtedly, establishing that drowsy driving caused an accident can be more difficult than an accident caused by someone under the influence of alcohol. However, injuries caused by drowsy drivers can be every bit as serious and life threatening as those sustained as the result of an intoxicated driver.

If you or a loved one have sustained injuries due to a motorist who operated his or her vehicle while too sleepy to safely drive, you need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can investigate the accident and attempt to hold accountable the person responsible for your injuries.