Study: Driving while drowsy poses serious crash risk in Missouri

The findings of one study suggest that drowsy driving is prevalent, and may contribute to causing potentially serious or fatal auto accidents.

Many people in Missouri, and elsewhere, recognize that falling asleep while driving is dangerous. However, fewer understand that drowsy driving is also hazardous. Based on the findings of one study, driving while fatigued or sleep-deprived poses a serious crash risk. As a result of such car accidents, the drowsy drivers themselves, as well as their passengers and the occupants of other vehicles may sustain serious injuries or death.

Why is it dangerous to drive while drowsy?

The dangers posed by falling asleep while driving are somewhat obvious. Vehicles may drift off of the road or into other lands of traffic if they are not being controlled by a conscious driver. Drowsiness can have a range of effects on drivers, which may make driving while overly fatigued or tired just has hazardous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some of the effects drowsiness may have on motorists include the following:

• Decreased information processing

• Reduced attentiveness

• Delayed reaction times

As a result of these and other effects caused by drowsiness, drivers' ability to safely control their vehicles, respond to emergency situations on the road and adjust to changes in the traveling conditions may be compromised. Consequently, these negligent drivers may be more likely to cause serious motor vehicle collisions.

Examining the effect of drowsy driving

Researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to glean estimates regarding the prevalence of drowsy driving collisions. To this end, they analyzed data for 14,268 motor vehicle accidents. The crashes studied occurred between 2009 and 2013 and resulted in one or more vehicles being towed away. The included collisions were all scrutinized by investigators from the NHTSA's National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System, or NASS CDS.

The investigators with the NASS CDS assessed the attentiveness of the drivers before the accidents occurred. The motorists' level of attention was labeled as distracted, asleep or sleepy, looked by did not see, attentive or unknown. The researchers applied multiple imputation models to develop estimates they could apply to all reported car accidents.

Drowsy drivers put themselves and others at risk

Overall, the study showed sleep-deprived or fatigued motorists pose a significant risk to themselves and others with whom they share the roads. Based on the study's estimates, drowsy drivers are involved in 13 percent of all collisions resulting in serious injuries that require hospitalization and 21 percent of all deadly wrecks.

The study's estimates are significantly higher than the government's statistics, which suggest 2.2 percent of accidents resulting in injuries and 2.5 percent of fatal collisions involve drowsy drivers. Therefore, the study suggests that serious crashes involving sleep-deprived or fatigued motorists are more prevalent than reported. Applying the study's estimates to all police-reported motor vehicle accidents implies that drowsy drivers are involved in 109,000 injury collisions and 6,400 fatal crashes each year.

Working with an attorney

People who are injured in Missouri drowsy driving accidents may require extensive medical treatment. As a result, they may face unexpected medical bills and need time off of work to recover. However, in some circumstances the negligent drivers who cause these collisions may be responsible for the damages. Therefore, it may benefit people who have experienced such situations to seek legal counsel. An attorney may advise them of their rights, as well as their options for pursuing compensation.

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