While the devastation caused by intoxicated and distracted driving cannot be overstated, there is an increasing awareness of the huge numbers of deaths and injuries being caused by driving while drowsy. Drowsiness has a globally negative impact on driving performance, slowing reaction time, decreasing situational awareness, and impairing judgment.
According to the NHTSA, drowsiness is reported to cause 40,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year in the United States, and the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher as drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of accidents. Although drowsy driving is common among all groups of drivers, the persons most at risk are drivers between ages 16 to 29 (especially males), shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours, and people with untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Solutions proposed by the NHTSA, while primarily in the area of public education, also include such measures as increasing use of rumble strips which can wake drivers and alert them that they are veering off course. Posted on the NHTSA’s site are the NHTSA’s research and recommendations on drowsy driving.
From a legal perspective, driving while drowsy, while usually more difficult to prove than intoxicated driving, may constitute negligence and be deemed the cause of an accident, rendering the drowsy driver liable.