Studies suggest drowsy driving not taken seriously by drivers

Studies show that many drivers believe sleep deprivation is not as serious as drunk driving, although the risks are similar.

Drowsy driving may impact more drivers and passengers across the country than Illinois residents would imagine. The National Sleep Foundation claims about 100,000 reported accidents are caused by sleepy drivers every year in the United States. About 71,000 injuries occur and 1,550 people are killed in accidents as a result of drowsy driving. In a survey, 60 percent of adult drivers admitted to having driven drowsy during the past year, and more than a third said they had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

With daylight saving time ending, most people are celebrating an extra hour of sleep. However, statistics show an increase in drowsy-driving related accidents near this period, states the Central Valley Business Times. It takes a while to adjust to a new sleep pattern. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety last year showed drowsy driving crashes were up 16 percent near the end of daylight saving time from an earlier study in 2010.

Do people take drowsy driving seriously enough?

A new study, according to Psych Central, suggested a disturbing attitude toward driver fatigue, especially among younger drivers. The Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety at Queensland University of Technology in Australia revealed that drivers were more supportive of drunk driving enforcement than penalties for sleepy driving. Drivers under the age of 30 are more likely to get behind the wheel sleep-deprived, yet are less likely to accept sleepy driving prevention measures by law enforcement. Even so, studies have shown that drowsy drivers risk causing traffic collisions as much as drunk drivers. Staying awake for 17 hours has the same impairment effects as a blood alcohol content of .05 percent, and not getting sleep for 20 hours is the same as driving with a .1 percent BAC.

Impairment caused by drowsy driving

Despite the risks, most drivers don't consider fatigued driving to be the same as driving while intoxicated. However, a sleep-deprived driver's cognitive and motor skills are challenged, as well as concentration, attention and memory.

The following steps may help prevent accidents due to drowsy driving:

• Get a good night's sleep before driving, especially before a long trip.

• Keep an eye out for pedestrians, particularly children walking to and from school.

• Avoid driving after using medications that cause drowsiness.

• During a trip, get out of the car for a break every 100 miles or couple of hours.

• Pull over in a safe place and take a nap if the signs of drowsiness appear.

Americans have a tendency to be sleep-deprived most of the time, which can be disastrous combined with a motor vehicle. Those who have been injured by a sleepy driver have the right to pursue compensation. An experienced Illinois personal injury attorney can advise injured parties if they have a case.