Tired Drivers & Car Accidents: Studies Speak to Dangers of Drowsy Driving

A new study published in the journal SLEEP is confirming what researchers have been telling us for years: fatigue and lack of sleep can impact our ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Although this may be a sensible and straightforward finding for many, the first peer-reviewed study on crash risks associated with drowsy driving is highlighting just how dangerous driving while sleep-deprived actually is – even if that lack of sleep occurs within the past 24 hours.

Here are a few important findings from the study, which reviewed data, police reports, and driver / witness statements from over 4,500 U.S. crashes:

  • Drivers who slept less than 7 hours in the previous 24 hours were more likely to cause and be involved in car accidents than those who slept for the expert-recommended 7 to 9 hours.
  • The highest crash risks were found among motorists who slept under 4 hours in a night (24-hour time period total). According to the study, they were more than 15x likely to cause an accident.
  • Sleep deprived drivers with under 7, 6, 5, and 4 hours of sleep in a single night were also more likely to cause single-vehicle accidents than motorists who got sufficient rest.
  • Higher crash risks were also identified among motorists with significant disruptions in their sleeping schedules.

The latest study, and first peer-reviewed analysis of its kind, comes at an important time, as the fall and winter season will be bringing other issues known to affect sleep and driving safety, including:

  • Daylight Saving Time – California, like the majority of U.S. states, still adheres to Daylight Saving Time (DST), which will take place on November 4, 2018. While DST was designed to shift hours of morning and evening daylight and maximize working hours when we depended largely on the sun for light, it has been criticized by many for being outdated. Additionally, a number of studies have found that the time change can disrupt sleeping patterns and affect the number of hours and quality of sleep a person gets, earning it an association with an increase in serious and fatal auto accidents, as well as pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents.
  • Holiday Season & Work Schedules – The coming months and holiday season can be busy times of years for many employers, including those in the consumer-based industry, delivery and transportation sectors, and many others. Busier seasons can create substantial shakeups in work schedules, including changing schedules and overtime hours, which place motorists at risk of missing out on critical sleep. The holiday season also poses an additional danger on the roads: significant increases in drunk driving wrecks.
  • Weather-Relates Risks – At the same time the clocks “Fall Back” and workers gear up for more hectic schedules, fall and winter weather can also increase risks on roadways. This includes risks predominately associated with rain, fog, and decreased visibility in Southern California. While these weather conditions can increase risks for any motorist, they can be especially dangerous when sleep-deprived drivers lack the responsiveness, vigilance, and other cognitive abilities needed to drive safely in inclement weather or respond quickly to collision-critical situations.

Your Rights as an Auto Accident Victim

Drowsy driving is a safety issue that, while not explicitly illegal, should be something we all take a part in addressing so as to prevent avoidable wrecks. Unfortunately, even the safest motorists – and those who get the recommended hours of sleep or pull over to rest when they’re feeling too tired to drive safely – can suffer harm in preventable accidents caused by those who don’t make safety a priority. This is true in any situation where motorists failed in some way to safely operate their vehicles, which may include:

  • Hours-of-Service violations committed by commercial drivers and operators that lead to preventable truck accidents or bus accidents
  • Drowsy driving that causes motorists to run red lights, make unsafe lane changes, or commit other traffic infractions which cause auto accidents
  • Fatigued motorists who fail to take account of their surroundings, and cause preventable pedestrian or cyclist accidents as a result

Whatever the circumstances of your accident may be, it is important to know that you may have the right to seek justice and financial compensation for your losses by holding the at-fault party accountable. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our personal injury team has the experience and resources to help victims and their families evaluate the circumstances surrounding their accidents, explore their options and who can be held at fault, and navigate the civil justice system to secure the compensation they deserve.

As a firm with proven abilities in protecting the rights of the injured and fighting back against insurance companies that want to pay as little as possible, we’re here to help you during these difficult times. To discuss a potential case anywhere in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas of Southern California, contact us for a free consultation.