While drowsy driving doesn't often get the attention it deserves from safety advocates, it is a leading cause of crashes. Drowsy driving can be especially dangerous when sleepy drivers make no attempt to slow down, stop or avoid a crash. This can happen in just seconds when a driver experiences a microsleep.
Even when drowsy drivers don't fall asleep, they often still drive impaired. Drowsy drivers may have trouble concentrating, remembering the last few miles driven, or find it difficult staying in their lanes. This is nearly as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol or other impairing substances.
Inadequate sleep is often the cause of drowsy driving. We see this with night shift workers, parents of young children and younger drivers who may regularly stay up late. We also see this with people who travel long distances, including truck drivers and business travelers.
Sleep disorders and drowsy driving
Some drivers suffer from health conditions that put them at risk of causing drowsy driving crashes. There are many drivers who have undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders that can reduce sleep quality and increase the risk of daytime drowsiness.
These conditions include:
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts normal breathing patterns while sleeping. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive. This is when the muscles in the throat relax to the point where they block the airways and make breathing difficult.
- Insomnia: Chronic stress, anxiety, depression and the use of certain medications can result in insomnia. This condition makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Restless leg syndrome: People who suffer from restless leg syndrome have the constant urge to move their legs while trying to fall asleep. This can be driven by an unpleasant sensation in the legs.
Why driving with an undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorder is negligent
Drowsy driving kills nearly 800 people per year, according to the NHTSA. These crashes are preventable, even for drivers who suffer from sleep disorders.
People with sleep disorders can't help suffering from these conditions. They are, however, responsible for seeking medical attention, getting diagnosed and getting treated for their conditions so they can reduce their risk of causing a crash.
Some people with sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, may not be allowed to drive at all. When they do, and they cause someone's injury or death, they should be held accountable.
If you or a loved one was injured in a drowsy driving crash, it's critical that you know your rights. Speak to an experienced Seattle car accident attorney who can help you get compensated for medical costs, wage loss, property damage and other damages accrued from your crash.