AAA study highlights prevalence, dangers of drowsy driving

Based on the findings of a AAA study, drivers regularly get behind the wheel while drowsy, which could contribute to causing serious or fatal collisions.

Most people throughout the Bay Area are aware of the risks posed by speeding, drunk driving and other negligent behaviors. Often, however, they overlook the potential hazards of driving while drowsy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accidents resulted in about 800 deaths in 2013, and many more suffered serious injuries . Based on one study, drivers across the U.S. regularly get behind the wheel while overly fatigued.

Examining the prevalence of drowsy driving

The American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to obtain updated estimates of the commonality of self-reported drowsy driving. To this end, researchers conducted a survey among motorists aged 16-years-old, and up, from across the country. The survey's questions pertained to the respondents' driving behaviors, their attitudes toward traffic safety and their perceptions of social norms. The researchers conducting the study then examined the survey results from 2,545 respondents to estimate the prevalence of fatigued driving.

Study shows motorists regularly drive while drowsy

Based on the study's findings, more than 43 percent of drivers have dozed off or fallen asleep at one point, or another, in their lives. Furthermore, 97 percent of the survey's respondents indicated they do not believe it is okay to drive when they are so tired that it is difficult to keep their eyes open. This response is indicative of a general social disapproval for drowsy driving. Due to this disapproval, however, the researchers believe that the prevalence of motorists driving while drowsy may be greater than their estimates.

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

The hazards of falling asleep while behind the wheel are somewhat obvious. However, mere drowsiness also poses serious risks for drivers. Fatigue may have a number of effects on motorists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the most common of these include the following:

• Reduced ability to focus on the task of driving

• Impaired ability to make good decisions

• Slowed reaction times

Due to these effects, drivers may not be able to adjust to changes in driving conditions, control their vehicles or react to hazards on the road. As a result, they may cause auto accidents, which may have serious, or deadly, consequences for those involved.

Seek legal counsel

When Californians are injured in collisions involving drowsy drivers, they often require medical treatment and, in some cases, time off of work to recover. This commonly leads not only to medical expenses, but also lost wages and other damages. Depending on the circumstances, the negligent drivers in such situations may be held liable. Therefore, it may benefit those who have suffered injuries in drowsy driving-related accidents to discuss their case with an attorney. A legal representative may help them to understand their rights, and advise them of their options for pursuing financial compensation.