The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that there are 328,000 drowsy driving crashes every year in Indiana and across the U.S. Injuries arise in 109,000 of these cases, and fatalities in 6,400. Fatigue raises a driver’s risk for a car crash three times; it has an adverse effect that can actually be compared to drunkenness.
Sleep deprivation is, of course, the cause of fatigue. Drivers who go without sleep for 20 consecutive hours will begin to act like someone with a blood alcohol concentration of .08: the legal limit in this state. Drowsiness impairs attention, judgment and vision. It makes it harder for drivers to recognize hazards on the road and react to them.
In severe cases, drowsiness leads to four- or five-second bursts of inattention called microsleep. Going at highway speed, a driver experiencing microsleep can unknowingly travel the length of a football field.
In a National Sleep Foundation survey, about half of respondents admitted to consistently driving while drowsy. Around 20% even said they fell asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past year.
There are interventions, though, that can help prevent drowsy driving. Drivers could install features like lane departure warning on their vehicles. Universities and parents of teen drivers could provide better education, too, on the danger of drowsy driving.
Drowsy driving is a form of negligence, so those motor vehicle collisions that arise because of it can form the basis for a personal injury claim. Indiana follows a modified comparative negligence rule, sometimes called the “51% fault” rule. It means that plaintiffs can recover damages as long as they are less than 51% to blame for their injuries. Contributory negligence will lower whatever damages they do recover, so victims may want a lawyer by their side to ensure a fair settlement.