Drowsy Driving: A Hidden Killer on Maryland’s Roadways

The Maryland public is generally aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. We know to avoid getting behind the wheel when we have had too much to drink, or when we may be under the influence of medication. Government studies have educated us on how alcohol in our blood can impair reaction times on the road.

But there is one risk that many of us take every day, which can make driving just as dangerous, if not moreso, than driving drunk – drowsy driving. As the name implies, this is the act of getting behind the wheel when we have not had enough sleep.

Why it is so Dangerous

We often do not think of how much sleep we have had the night before when we get behind the wheel. Many of us will try to “tough it out,” and drive through drowsiness. We may not even be aware of how tired we really are. Worse, the general public does not see the act of driving while tired as being nearly as bad as driving while drunk.

Studies show that DUI and drowsy driving are very similar. Being awake for 18 straight hours can have the same effect on driving as having a BAL of .05. That number rises to .10 if you have not had sleep in 24 hours, which can be common if we have a bad night of sleep or suffer from periodic insomnia.

One study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) revealed that missing only two or three hours of sleep quadrupled drivers’ chances of being in an accident. With less than four hours sleep, drivers were found to be 12 times more likely to get into an accident.

Little Regulation to Stop the Problem

Drowsy driving causes accidents all the time. It is believed to have played a role in the catastrophic accident involving comedian Tracey Morgan. It is likely that because we do not immediately think of sleep deprivation as a cause of accidents, that the actual number of accidents involving drowsy driving may be much higher than what is reported.

Like drunk driving, the problem is not often us, it is the others on the road. People who drive for a living or who may work multiple jobs to make ends meet can easily end up driving without sleep for extended periods of time. Recognizing this problem, the trucking industry has imposed regulations on how long a driver can operate a truck without rest, but most other industries involving vehicles are not regulated.

Drowsy Driving Signals

In many ways drowsy driving can be even worse than drunk driving. To some extent, a drunk driver can still swerve or try to avoid an accident. But a driver who falls asleep is completely unconscious, with no reaction ability at all.

Telltale signs of drowsy driving may be a lack of any kind of skid mark or indication of driver reaction, or cars that slowly veer out of their lanes. Unaware that they have fallen asleep, at fault drivers may report that they do not even remember what happened before their accident.

If you are injured in a car accident, make sure you investigate all the possible causes to make sure that those responsible are held liable. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your injury or liability case.