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Often overlooked as a risky driving behavior, drowsy driving puts New York and Pennsylvania motorists and passengers at risk for serious and potentially fatal accidents.

Drowsy Driving in New York and Pennsylvania: Understand the Risks

Driving while drowsy is often viewed as more of an inevitability than a serious hazard. Realistically, drowsy driving poses a significant accident risk for motorists in New York, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States. According to the National Safety Council, fatigued drivers are three times more likely to get into a collision than motorists who have had adequate rest.[1]

Fatigue, described as feelings of tiredness, sleepiness, and reduced energy,[2] has been identified as contributory to hundreds of thousands of motor vehicle accidents per year.[3] Further, it is a problem that millions of drivers suffer from, with 43% of drivers in the United States admitting to falling asleep or nodding off while driving at some point in their lives.[4]

What causes drowsy driving?

Several factors can cause fatigue which in turn, may lead to drowsy driving. Some of the most common include:

  • Working overnights, multiple shifts, or otherwise long hours;
  • Operating vehicles such as tractor-trailers, buses, or tow trucks;
  • Having an untreated sleep disorder;
  • Traveling through different time zones or during normal sleep hours; and
  • Taking medications that cause drowsiness.[5]

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

While drowsy, motorists may lose control of their vehicles, causing them to run off the road, run into roadside objects, or run into other vehicles. With no way to predict when sleep will overcome efforts to stay awake, drivers may not even realize they are drifting out of their lanes. Even when a driver does not fully fall asleep at the wheel, they may have periods of micro-sleep. Micro-sleep, defined as “small bursts of sleep, often felt as head nods or drooping eye lids,”[6] cause involuntary periods of inattentiveness which may result in drivers traveling significant distances without being aware of their vehicles, the roads in front of them, or the other motorists with whom they are sharing the road.[7]

Even if a drowsy driver does not fall asleep behind the wheel, fatigue alone can cause substantial driving impairments. Drowsiness may slow motorists’ reaction times, decrease their ability to remain focused, and reduce their overall awareness.[8] The National Safety Council points out that a driver who operates a vehicle after going twenty or more hours without sleep may experience impairments equivalent to those experienced by motorists with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%.[9] These and other effects of drowsiness on drivers increases the risk of accidents that could result in serious injury or death for them, their passengers, or the occupants of other vehicles on the road.

Pursuing Financial Compensation

When people are involved in collisions with drowsy drivers in New York or Pennsylvania, they may suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and time off of work for recovery. Consequently, those injured in accidents caused by drowsy driving may face costly medical bills and lost wages in addition to physical pain and suffering. People who have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident due to drowsy driving should contact an attorney to learn more about their rights, as well as their options for recovering damages.

[1] National Safety Council, Drowsy Driving is Impaired Driving, (last visited Aug. 1, 2019).

[2] Id.

[3] National Transportation Safety Board, Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements: Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents (2016).

[4] Id.

[5] National Sleep Foundation, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week: Facts About Drowsy Driving (2007).

[6] National Safety Council, Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue (2017).

[7] National Safety Council, Drowsy Driving is Impaired Driving, supra note 1.

[8] National Transportation Safety Board, supra note 3.

[9] National Sleep Foundation, supra note 5.