What do drowsy driving and drunk driving have in common?

Drowsy driving is a problem that affects most people at some point during their lives. Driving while sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

As fall transitions into winter and the holidays are approaching, a great deal of attention is being placed on the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. Many drivers in Illinois and elsewhere might get behind the wheel after celebrating a little too much at a holiday party, or they could take out their cellphone to make a quick text to let relatives know when they will be over for Thanksgiving dinner. The most visible safety issues, however, do not make another common hazard any less dangerous.

Nearly 84 million drivers across the country are driving while drowsy at any given time, according to a study by State Farm Insurance and the Governors Highway Safety Association. About 5,000 people in 2015 were killed in accidents attributed to drowsy driving.

A 2015 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed the following eye-opening points:

  • 31.5 percent of drivers surveyed said that during the past 30 days, they had difficulty keeping their eyes open behind the wheel.
  • Out of these, 3.5 percent admitted this was a regular occurrence.
  • 43.2 percent of those polled admitted to having nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once.

An additional driving study by Australian researchers showed that people who got behind the wheel after being awake for 18 hours had the same impairment levels as someone with a .05 blood alcohol content. According to the National Sleep Foundation, driving after 24 hours of being awake was the same as driving with a BAC of .10 percent, which is over the legal limit in the United States.

High-risk drivers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that certain groups of drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy than others. These include those who regularly do not get enough sleep, such as students and people who work late or overnight shifts. People who take medications that cause drowsiness and those with untreated sleep disorders are also in this group, as well as commercial drivers - particularly truck drivers.

A tragic accident that occurred near Naperville in January 2014 drove home this last point about truck drivers. Many truckers regularly drive while sleep-deprived. According to Go By Truck Global News, drowsiness was determined to be a factor when a tractor-trailer plowed into several emergency vehicles that were in the right lane on Interstate 88 assisting another truck that was disabled. One person was killed and two others were seriously injured, including a police officer.

Drivers may reduce their own chances of being in a sleep-related accident by getting enough sleep before a trip and pulling over if they feel they are too tired to drive. However, accidents caused by others cannot always be prevented. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney may be able to assist those seeking compensation from an accident.