Driving drowsy? Not a good idea. One out of seven drivers aged 16 to 24 has admitted to actually nodding off while driving once or more in the past year, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation. The study was part of the Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (November 12-18), an annual campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while slightly sleepy. The study found that 1 in 10 drivers admitted that they had fallen asleep completely in the past year.
However, accidents caused by drowsy driving can be prevented? It’s estimated by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that one out of six deadly car crashes can be attributed to a drowsy driver. So, what can you do to prevent an accident from being caused by you?
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a Sleep in America poll in 2011. This poll found that among drivers, 52% admitted to driving drowsy. 37% admitted to driving drowsy in the past month. Currently, only four states have laws concerning drowsy driving: California, Florida, New Jersey, and Utah.
To combat drowsy driving, New Jersey passed Maggie’s Law, a law that criminalized the act. Named for Maggie McDonnell, who was hit by a driver who had not slept for 30 hours and was using drugs, Maggie’s Law qualified any driver as one who had not slept in 24 hours and were considered “drowsy” could also be considered reckless and can be convicted of vehicular homicide. In the second trial for the case prior to the law passing (the jury deadlocked in the first), the defense lawyers argued Jersey had no law against falling asleep behind the wheel. The driver received a $200 fine and suspended jail sentence.
Massachusetts is considering its own law. Senator Richard T. Moore’s proposed Rob’s Law was placed under a study order. The law is named after Major Robert Raneri, killed in 2002 by a drowsy driver while on his way to work at Fort Devens for the United States Army Reserve. This bill would make drowsy driving a criminal offense, and in cases where they caused a car accident that resulted in death the driver could be caused with homicide with a motor vehicle while under the influence of ‘an intoxicating substance’.
Signs you should not drive:
- Difficulty focusing
- Feeling sleepy or tired
- Frequent blinking to stay awake
- Swerving or drifting in your line
- Not seeing cars until they are near you
- Dreaming, daydreaming
- Tough to stay awake without an effort
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Failing to obey traffic laws, drawing honks
- Missing exits
Tips to avoid drowsy driving accidents:
- Sleep 8 hours a night
- Get good rest
- Don’t rush to be in your destination
- Pull over to rest or wake up if you feel yourself getting drowsy
- Do not drive long stretches alone
- Do not consume drugs, alcohol, or medication that causes sleepiness
- Take breaks every 2 hours for long driving
- Break up long stretches of driving by switching drivers or taking a walk
Drowsy driving may seem innocent, but it can be deadly. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident that involved drowsy driving, contact an experienced car accident attorney at The Law Offices of Payas, Payas, and Payas.